Upstream - Downstream
The fugue that is the planetary hydrologic cycle has its tempo set by the solar cycle, seasonality, and planetary processes. To ignore these, as if they were somehow constant is to deny all system dynamics, and causality as a basis for prognoses. Science has taught some lessons well. Examples are the values of analogy, good records, and long time series.
On a spinning, inhomogenuous, off-axis spherical system, the likelihood of linear logic prevailing is nearly zero. Complex interaction is the mode du jour, and requires a willingness to delve into the unknown. The recent decades' patterns of scientific thinking, in reflection on the Climate Change problem has been remarkably non-productive, as would be predicted from the approaches taken. The issue is not about bigger computers, nor even more measurements. It is about revisiting the objectives - defining purpose.
Why are we interested in Climate Change? Because, historically, it has been important.
Climate modelers all wish to reach the state where climate can be predicted well in advance of the events, as a source of security for humans. Yet, we have squandered nearly a decade, and countless millions of resource dollars in feuding over where the effort should be placed, into better models, or better observing systems. Minimization of inter-agency competition for funds, with consortia formed to minimize redundancies, have yet to converge on a scale of relevance that will satisfy any local region's needs.
Partially, this is about fragmented expertise, and lack of communications between disparate applications of these scenario generator models. Mostly it is about the conceptual chaos invoked by euphemisms proffered as code words for very complex, poorly understood processes. El Niño was only really defined, if poorly in 1980 or so, while for about fifty years, we have recorded many, if not all of the important variables for some small subsets of ocean and atmosphere.
Consider that we have yet to talk about upstream processes, those west of the Warm Pool, simply because the entire pattern of causality is continuous, and one must pick a point of reference from which to start.
ENSO processes are embedded within a grander, global scenario. Yet, to date, much of the ado is focused on the Pacific Basin simply because of the temporal coherence that has emerged, only just since the 1982-83 event. That event caught everyone's attention, with floods, droughts, and other "unseasonal" climate changes. The following is, in the clearest sense, what my concerns are all about.
If ENSO is the first order "Theme and Variations" affecting the "Seasonal Climate Fugue" - and no two of these events or sequences is alike - what other patterns of Climate Surprises are yet to be revealed, using our few decade-old technologies?
Having spent the recent decade as an understudy with many paleoclimate researchers, and learning that historical analogs have stored clearly interpretable annual, decadal, and centennial climate records in location around the world. Each set of studies suggests that significant global and regional climate changes occur on all time scale, with a few years to decades not being uncommon. Is human intervention an arguable issue?, Can we really expect the other 90% of the world's human populations to stop moving away from old ways, and let the "developed" cultures continue their indulgences? Reality lies in historical analogs. It is NOT GOOD NEWS.
The Nile flood records, as well as economic records from European trade organizations have provided many analog insights, and interpretations of causes of major periods of social upheaval. Many of these I have extracted and can be found in the Chronologies that are accessible from my Home Page - "Its All About Time - and Place". The 1200s is a good place to start.