Is Climate Chaotic or Cyclical? The Transition from Uniformitarianism to Catastrophism.

Watts Up With That?

Guest opinion: Dr. Tim Ball

In the 1990s a clear divide existed between the east (the Soviet Union and China) who said climate change is cyclical and the west (the US and Europe) who believed it was chaotic. The former argued that all we need to do is determine the major cycles and how they interact to start understanding and to predict. The latter that climate was chaotic as expressed in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Third Assessment Report and predictions were not possible.

In climate research and modeling, we should recognize that we are dealing with a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore that the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible.

Chaos theory was the source of the Lorenz based story prevalent at the time that if a butterfly flaps its wings in Japan it arrives as a storm in California many days later.

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