What The Caine Mutiny Can Teach Us about Global Warming Scientists
Climate change advocates often argue from "authority" as opposed to examining the facts.
February 17, 2009 - 12:00 am
Anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is justified via argument from authority: a consensus of “experts” holds that humans are responsible for the increase in the Earth’s average temperature during the twentieth century.
I was once a leader in forming a scientific consensus. In the late 1970s, most cosmologists believed the universe could not accelerate. Our experimental evidence for this belief was very weak, so we appealed to “expert opinion.” In the late 1990s, we discovered dark energy, the stuff that is accelerating the universe, and I now regard “scientific consensus” as a synonym for “wrong.” But at least we “experts” in this wrong cosmological consensus had genuine accomplishments in cosmology, unrelated to our wrong opinion on dark energy, to justify the claim that we were in fact “experts.”
I am struck by the lack of similar accomplishments by the leaders of the AGW “consensus.” In fact, it is the leading opponents of AGW who have genuine scientific achievements in the field of climatology. Last year, Reid Bryson, the “father of climatology,” and a leading AGW skeptic, passed away. Bryson’s actual achievements are the hallmark of a genuine scientist as opposed to the work done by AGW advocates.
A true scientist demonstrates his knowledge by using it to make predictions which can be confirmed or refuted. Bryson successfully predicted, in December 1944, that the so-called “Caine Mutiny Typhoon” would hit Adm. William Halsey’s Third Fleet. This storm was so-named because the novel The Caine Mutiny was based on what happened to the Fleet when it was struck by the typhoon. The novel won the Pulitzer Prize and was later made into a movie starring Humphrey Bogart.
Reid Bryson later wrote of his experience with the Caine Mutiny Typhoon in the October 2000 issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. From weather reports, he realized that a typhoon had formed and a trough of low pressure could cause it to curve toward the Third Fleet. He ordered up a reconnaissance aircraft, which located the storm’s eye, and estimated that the surface wind speed was a very strong 140 knots. Bryson radioed this observational data to Fleet Weather Central at Pearl Harbor, who responded with “we don’t believe you.” The Third Fleet did not receive Bryson’s warning. The typhoon hit the fleet, sinking four ships and killing nearly 800 men.
This was not Bryson’s first experience with meteorologists who disdained scientific evidence for their own gut feeling. In August of 1943, Bryson was stationed at Fleet Weather Central. He was asked to make a weather prediction for Marcus Island, where a carrier-based air strike was scheduled for August 23. Applying standard physics to the data available to him, Bryson concluded that a typhoon that Fleet Weather Central had been monitoring would curve and hit the U.S. task force as it was launching its strike. Bryson recalls that the senior meteorologist at Pearl said, “Nonsense! Typhoons don’t curve. Change that forecast.”