Evening Lectures - Ocala

Judith Curry

THE TALK: Climate Science and the Uncertainty Monster

November 19, 2015


How to understand and reason about uncertainty in climate science is a topic that is receiving increasing attention in both the scientific and philosophical literature. This is one perspective on exploring ways to understand, assess and reason about uncertainty in climate science. Uncertainty associated with climate science and the science-policy interface presents unique challenges adding to the complexity of the climate system itself, the potential for adverse socioeconomic impacts of climate change, and politicization of proposed policies to reduce societal vulnerability to climate change. The challenges to handling uncertainty at the science-policy interface are framed using the ‘monster’ metaphor, whereby attempts to tame the monster are described. Uncertainty of climate models is interpreted in the context of model inadequacy, uncertainty in model parameter values, and initial condition uncertainty. The challenges of building confidence in climate models are described. A concerted effort is needed to identify better ways of framing the climate change problem, explore and characterize uncertainty, reason about uncertainty in the context of evidence-based logical hierarchies, and eliminate bias from the consensus building process.


Dr. Judith Curry is Professor and former Chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Dr. Curry received a Ph.D. in atmospheric science from the University of Chicago in 1982. Prior to joining the faculty at Georgia Tech, she held faculty positions at the University of Colorado, Penn State University and Purdue University. With research interests spanning a variety of topics in climate, her current interests include climate dynamics of the Arctic, climate dynamics of extreme weather events, and reasoning about climate uncertainty. She is a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Geophysical Union.

Dr. Curry has recently presented U.S. Congressional Testimony to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and the House Subcommittee on the Environment. She is a prominent public spokesperson on issues associated with the integrity of climate research.  Curry serves as president and co-owner of the company Climate Forecast Applications Network LLC (CFAN). CFAN translates the scientific weather and climate research so that governments and industries can better anticipate and manage weather- and climate-related risks. Curry is proprietor of the blog Climate Etc., which discusses current topics in climate science, climate and energy policy, challenges at the science-policy interface, and use of social media in engaging with the public on complex and controversial topics.

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