Talk "Initial Conditions Dependence and Initial Conditions Uncertainty in Climate Science"

Given by Charlotte Werndl (University of Salzburg) and organized by the Vienna Colloquium in Analytic Philosophy.

On Thursday, the 15th of March 2018
at 4:00pm to 6:00pm
in room 3A (NIG, Universitätsstraße 7)


Abstract: This talk is about 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. What is often meant here 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.