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Initial conditions dependence and initial conditions uncertainty in climate science

Werndl, Charlotte (2017) Initial conditions dependence and initial conditions uncertainty in climate science. [Preprint]

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Abstract

This paper examines initial conditions dependence and initial conditions uncertainty for climate projections and predictions. The first contribution is to provide a clear conceptual characterisation of predictions and projections. Concerning initial conditions dependence, projections are often described as experiments that do not depend on initial conditions. Although prominent, this claim has not been scrutinized much and can be interpreted differently. If interpreted as the claim that projections are not based on estimates of the actual initial conditions of the world or that what makes projections true are conditions in the world, this claim is true.
However, what is often meant is that the simulations used to obtain projections are independent of initial conditions. This paper argues that evidence does not support this claim. Concerning initial conditions uncertainty, three kinds of initial conditions uncertainty are identified (two have received little attention from philosophers so far). The first (the one usually discussed) is the uncertainty associated with the spread of the ensemble simulations. The second arises because the theoretical initial ensemble cannot be used in calculations and has to be approximated by finitely many initial states. The third uncertainty arises because it is unclear how long the model should be run to obtain potential initial conditions at pre-industrial times. Overall, the discussion shows that initial conditions dependence and uncertainty in climate science are more complex and important issues than usually acknowledged.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Werndl, Charlottec.s.werndl@lse.ac.uk
Additional Information: Forthcoming in: the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science
Keywords: climate science, initial conditions, uncertainty, projections, predictions
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Mathematics > Applicability
Specific Sciences > Earth Sciences
Specific Sciences > Probability/Statistics
Depositing User: Charlotte Werndl
Date Deposited: 21 Nov 2017 21:53
Last Modified: 21 Nov 2017 21:53
Item ID: 14133
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Mathematics > Applicability
Specific Sciences > Earth Sciences
Specific Sciences > Probability/Statistics
Date: 2017
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/14133

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