Sunday, February 14, 2010

508. "Climate" The Lacuna of My Life.... Learning Through Cartoons ::: Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny!

I have learned a lot of very cool stuff over the years... but one thing my father is a bit disgruntled about is that I'm pathetic with weather and climate. Well... I think it's partly my laziness because... well, my dad knows so much about climate I just ask him stuff all the time and he knows everything... and now I have all these fishermen buddies and they know a LOT about climate simply because it's a matter of choosing to go to work or not the next day, and planning ahead for the week (they have a very detailed regional climactic knowledge whereas my dad is a bit more broad-scale in his analyses, you need BOTH scales though).... So, I'm surrounded by weather nuts, terrestrial and marine... and I myself am The Climate Patheticist. Until... now... through the venues of my CARTOONS!

I started grasping some sense of climate by learning the HISTORY of climate. I started realizing that learning science makes a LOT more sense to me when I learn it through the LENS OF HISTORY OF THE SUBJECT. Not only in biology, but in terms of the history of accumulated human knowledge the following goes: ONTOGENY RECAPITULATES PHYLOGENY.

Back to cartoons, my father had been wanting me to make a cartoon for a while about the history of climate. But the current cartoon had several holes in time. We settled for this timeline.
The narrative thread through the cartoon was "If Terra and Buz saw the same cloud every single time, how would they perceive the cloud given the scientific state of understanding in a given time period?" This sort of narrative thread could be used multiple times in reconstructing a history of perception / paradigm shifts in whatever fields... ranging from geology to ecology to medicine, like for example, Terra and Buz enter the doctors office due to some illness Terra had and different points in time, the doctor would respond differently in diagnosis and treatment.

1777. If someone saw a cloud, they would think about lightning and electricity. (Benjamin Franklin discovery of electricity).

1867. If someone saw a cloud, they would think of tradewinds. (My father recommended drawing Terra and Buz on a boat, common knowledge of British sailors, Columbus, transportation, old world to new world in low latitudes relied on trade winds, new world to old world in upper latitudes relied on westerlies) (Most people's knowledge was very localized, and there was no instant communication across distant regions. Ever since the invention of the telegraph and rapid communication of ideas, then observations from disparate regions were beginning to associate. Cross-scale-connecting the dots from local to regional to national, gaining a collective picture from multiple disparate localized observations, "collective perception of climate") (connecting the dots in space)

1897. If someone saw a cloud, they would maybe think of water vapor. (Nuts and bolts)

1907. If someone saw a cloud, they might associate it with cyclones (Swedish research, Swedish folk had lots of incentive to study storms especially since they were bombarded with stormy weather all the time)

1957. If someone saw a cloud, they would maybe think of the jetstream. (During World War II, people from all over the world started to position weather balloons all over the place, before people's perception of weather was GROUND weather (SURFACE PATTERNS) and not UPPER ELEVATION DYNAMICS, ground weather was very localized but upper elevation dynamics, pressure, temperature, humidity provided clues to broader-scale, global weather patterns) (connecting the dots in space)

1970s. Including satellite imagery, didn't drastically enhance understanding, but provided better imagery of broader-scale patterns.

1977. If someone saw a cloud, they would think of global cooling. Milankovitch cycles and such, and Paul Ehrlich's loud mouth, population bomb etcetera blah blah blah.

1997. If someone saw a cloud, they would think of El Nino. (When El Nino became popular culture, though my father said that he met the scientist who worked on El Nino cycles back in the 1950s and 1960s; the concept had been around for a while, this is a time in which scientists started discovering annual and multi-year cycles, for example the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and the Northern Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), besides annual El Ninos and La Ninas) (connecting the dots in time)

2007. If someone saw a cloud, they would think of Global Warming. (Post Al-Gore-Inconvenient-Truth film, which I critiqued the shxt out of that film, every single flippin' second of it, funny, though I critiqued the film... I still don't know jack shxt about climate).

2010. If someone saw a cloud, they would probably imitate a Global Warming Joke from last night's Jay Leno show. They would also blame ("attribute") their melted ice scream, excessive nose boogers, flat tire, and weight gain to global warming. Ultimate Blame-All. Blame-a-cea!

2010. Now I understand why my father can't stand modern "incomplete models" of climate, which are very short-sighted. There needs to be more roleplay and factoring in of paleo-climate (ice cores and other proxy data), the role of the geologic record in climate, and the coupling of climate with ocean dynamics. This is the next frontier.

I am 3 years old (28), and this is the first time I could say that my "cognitive map" of climate and history of climate has expanded... since... perhaps the Al Gore paper I wrote back in 2007. Sad situation, I do say. My being the Climate Idiot around very well-versed Climaticists (ha ha) is encouraging me to expand my knowledge....



Victoria "Stokastika" said...

My father states that the ocean is an "energy reservoir" like an energy storage house of the long term, kind of like a grainery or some kind of refrigerator or something.... And if we don't know how to factor that in our climactic modeling... the science models are moot.

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