Supercomputers and weather simulations [Was Re: META: IQ distributions]

From: Richard Loosemore (
Date: Thu Nov 24 2005 - 19:51:22 MST

David McFadzean wrote:
> On 11/22/05, Thomas Buckner <> wrote:
>>By comparison, former NH governor and White House
>>chief of staff John Sununu reputedly has a 180 IQ
>>and eidetic memory (both of which I would kill
>>for) but somehow managed to be an utter fool in
>>my estimation (among other follies, circa 1990 he
>>ran a climate sim on his home computer, which
>>couldn't have been much better than a 386 with a
>>couple megs of ram, and decided global warming
>>wasn't for real! When real climatologists running
>>supercomputers weren't willing to place total
>>faith in their sims.) If there's a better parable
>>illustrating that IQ-isn't-everything, I'd like
>>to hear it.
> There is another possibility here. Perhaps Sununu ran his little
> program enough to gain an intuition into the chaotic nature of
> dynamical complex systems like weather simulations. He observed how
> small changes in the inputs and assumptions led to large changes in
> the results and (correctly) reasoned that running on a supercomputer
> isn't going to mitigate that problem. So he concluded that
> climatologists couldn't possibly know with any degree of certainty
> from running their own simulations whether global warming was going to
> happen.
> :D
Your phrase "chaotic nature of dynamical complex systems like weather
simulations" betrays deep confusion about what a complex system is, what
a chaotic system is (not the same, usually) and what the characteristics
of weather systems are (partly chaotic, partly normal and predictable)

You also misunderstand what a supercomputer simulation is used for: not
just finer grained modelling, but modelling vast numbers of different
variations. Sununu could not possibly have learned anything from his
silly little simulation.

But I think you only made this comment as an excuse to start a political
flame war on the subject of global warming ;-)

Richard Loosemore

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