Dr. Arnd Bernaerts in a recent article provides the historical context necessary to get our bearings straight despite today’s overheated, bizarre media-drenched tirades.
As he explains, climate has always been particular and personal, not global or objective. And that has led us into our current impasse, unable to talk productively about weather and climate. It is as though we can not come to grips with the climate issue because our very language and terminology is itself a prior problem preventing any progress. In brief, the terms “weather” and “climate” are loaded with emotion, but not with clear, definitive scientific meaning. IOW plenty of connotation (heat) and very little denotation (light). Dr. Bernaerts faults scientists for failing to develop a rational framework for discovery and research, and instead opting for an activist agenda which benefits from the ambiguity and misrepresentation.
The article is Weather and climate are everyday slang words and misleading when used by science. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.
Since the last half of the 20th Century the world has a big problem. Science abuses the laymen terms used since time immemorial: weather and climate. Each term is connected closer to our bodies than our shirts, 24/7 throughout our lives. Alexander von Humboldt (1769 –1859), the great German naturalist and geographer defined climate as ‘all the changes in the atmosphere that perceptibly affect our organs’. According to A.v.Humboldt, ‘climate’ was even closer to the skin of any person than their clothing during day and night. Intellectuals in those days lived closer to nature than academics nowadays.
Climate is the imaginary idea of an individual person from a possible state of the atmosphere, at one place or in one region, about a shorter or longer period of time from own experience or narrative of others or e.g. out of Guidebooks. This means: More than 5 billion adults are living on Earth, and:
Everyone has their own view of climate and describes it corresponding to his own ideas, for the moment or the given circumstances.
During A. v. Humboldt’s lifetime, meteorology was emerging and still at a low level. Now for more than 100 years acknowledged as an academic discipline, scientists remained incapable to tell what ‘climate’ is, indicating their incompetence to formulate terms, without which nothing is explained and is completely useless for scientific research. In the early 20th Century climate was defined as average weather and in the 1930s, the thirty-year period from 1901 to 1930 considered as the baseline for measuring climate fluctuations. Several decades later the prominent meteorologist H.H. Lamb regarded the definition of climate as “average weather” quite inadequate, mentioning that until recently climatology was generally regarded as the mere dry-as-dust bookkeeping end of meteorology (FN. 1). Also the well-known F. Kenneth Hare wrote in 1979: You hardly heard the word climate professionally in the 1940s. It was a layman’s word. Climatologists were the halt and the lame (FN. 2).
As a daily slang word, climate is closer to everyones’ skin than their shirts, it is an abuse every time a scientist uses it. This is presumably a major reason that the climate-change debate has been getting more and more hysterical during the last decades.
But the story gets even worse, completey preposterous, when asking how IPCC defines “weather”. The result is shocking; the Glossary of IPCC offers nothing. But IPCC and other institutions, like the recent UN Climate Change Conference COP 25 (2 – 13 December 2019) in Madrid, do not care.
Even the definition of weather in the AMS – Glossary (American Meteorological Society) does not provide a usable solution, by explaining that:
- Popularly, weather is thought of in terms of temperature, humidity, precipitation, cloudiness, visibility, and wind, and
- the “present weather” table consists of 100 possible conditions, and
- the “past weather”; of 10 possible conditions.
The AMS Glossary does not clear the matter, as it is superficial on several aspects. Already false is the explanation of ‘popularly weather’. The layman is able to use and explain the current weather in presumably several hundred versions, and ‘popularly weather’ is extremly far away from a transparent and workable academic term, as explained above.
It is naive not to realize that if you define climate as average weather, you have to say clearly what weather is. Weather has to be defined first. Meteorology has always ignored this point or – meanwhile – making nebulous statements about it.
Actually it is fair to say that the layman understanding and use of the word “weather” is closer to the following description:
Weather is a personal rating by any person over the condition of the atmosphere, in its various manifestations, at a certain time, usually for the current situation or in temporal proximity.
With such an explanation the story is close to the understanding in ancient Greek, and how A. v. Humboldt (1769 –1859) approached the matter.
The failure of science is that it uses layperson terms, but cannot define them transparently. No wonder that there now are the movements ‘Fridays for Future’ and ‘Extinction Rebellion’, and a discussion at a hysterical level. But science seems happy with the situation, which they have caused. Their prominence grows, the money is coming in; they are able to influence long term political decisions. The biggest tragedy in the whole scenario is that the undeniable rise in temperatures since the mid-19th Century, is discussed on the most superficial childish level.
Folks, keep your way of using the terms: weather and climate, as you have always done, and do not allow scientists to abuse them for selfish reasons.
See Also Climate Science Was Broken