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Open Source Communities, What Are the Problems? Open Climate Models (3)

By: Dr. Ricky Rood , 07:55 PM GMT em 10 de Janeiro de 2011

Open Source Communities, What Are the Problems? Open Climate Models (3)

I want to return to the series that I started about community approaches to climate modeling. Just to help me get started I am going to repeat the last two paragraphs from the previous entry in the series. (#1 in series, #2 in series)

I managed large weather and climate modeling activities when I was at NASA. On a good day, I maintain that I managed successfully. When I was a manager I sought control, and I grimaced at some naïve ideas of community. My experience tells me that we need to investigate new ways of model development and model use. This need arises because the complexity is too large to control, and this is especially true as we extend the need to use climate models to investigate energy policy decisions and adaptation to climate change.

In the past decade we have seen the emergence of community approaches to complex problem solving. Within these communities we see the convergence of creativity and the emergence of solution paths. We see self-organizing and self-correcting processes evolve. Counter intuitively, perhaps, we see not anarchy, but the emergence of governance in these open communities. The next entry in the series will focus more on describing open communities.

Open Communities, Open Innovation: The past 10 years have seen the emergence of open communities that do things from build software, to collecting information about birds, to building large knowledge bases. An example that often comes to mind is Wikipedia. Wikipedia represents an immense knowledge base. Experts (and not) can write and modify entries. And while anyone can modify the entries that does not mean that there is complete anarchy. There are rules of governance, that in this case translates to editorial standards that assure some level of evaluation of information and affirms some level of accuracy. Such a standard is exemplified in, for example, Wikipedia’s policy of no original research. Wikipedia is even evolving as a place to provide documentation about Earth system modeling infrastructure.

Open communities also include efforts to build software. One of the most famous examples is the development of the computer operating system Linux. Another example of software development is the Apache Foundation. The Apache Foundation represents many software projects, and from their website is “not simply a group of projects sharing a server, but rather a community of developers and users.” “The Apache projects are defined by collaborative consensus based processes, an open, pragmatic software license and a desire to create high quality software that leads the way in its field.” If you explore these websites the community is open, but there are rules and values that are shared by those working in the community. There is a process by which individuals contributions migrate into the products that are branded and provided by the community. That is, there is a governance model.

The two previous paragraphs are examples of two types of community approaches, and there are other types of communities such as Project Budburst and the Encyclopedia of Life. There are grassroots communities such as the atmospheric chemistry community GEOS-CHEM. Some communities have been remarkably successful. They inspire and harvest creative solutions to complex problems. They provide a culture in which ideas and solutions converge and emerge; they contain the attributes of being self-organizing and self-correcting. And in many cases people contribute to these communities without what is traditional compensation; that is, they do it for free.

What is the motivation to participate in such a community for free? And are such communities sustainable and reliable? The participation without being paid is contrary to the intuition of traditional managers. There are people who study the motivation and governance of communities, for example, Sonali Shah and Matthias Stürmer. Some who are motivated by contributing to knowledge, and others by making their mark in some large effort. Others are motivated because they need something that is otherwise not available, and the existing efforts in the community provide the foundation for filling that need. In this case the participation in the community lets them do something that is not otherwise possible. A reason that I often find amongst scientists is the feeling that there are certain tools that should be free, and therefore, they are willing to spend the time to make the tool free, with the expectation that there are others who will also contribute their efforts. Within the federal research community, there is often the value that if tax dollars paid for the generation of data or knowledge, then that data or knowledge should be as widely available as possibly (see National Institutes of Health Public Access Policy). In the same vein, sponsors of research are constantly advocating more community interaction in order to enhance capabilities and, potentially, reduce unneeded duplication of efforts.

Community-based approaches and open access to information are concepts that have been around for far longer than what we might call the internet age. Paul Edwards in his book A Vast Machine talks about the emergence of the need to share information in the study of weather because of the common need to share observations in order for weather forecasts to be useful. Throughout my career at NASA, we would occasionally be asked to do model experiments of what would happen if we (the U.S.) or some other country decided to start charging for all or part of weather data. Sometimes the studies were motivated by – if “our” weather data is “so” important, then others should be paying for it. Well, it turns out everyone’s data is important; for forecasts to be good in the U.S. we need to know what is happening in Canada and out in the Pacific Ocean. So we benefit from open access to the basic information about the Earth’s environment.

I have been exploring the need for open community approaches to addressing climate change in general. The subject of the current set of articles is climate models, and whether or not we could have climate models that are not only accessible, but that could be correctly configured and run by a wide-range of what might be non-expert customers of climate information. To note once again, there are numerous climate models that are accessible, and which can be altered and run by the user, for example, the Community Earth System Model. These models require highly specialized expertise and computational resources.

Sticking with just the focus on climate models, arguably the open source software communities named above provide what might be called an existence criterion. That is, there is the existence of a solution. With this existence, there seem two questions to motivate how to go forward.

1) What are the important elements of successful open source development communities that would be required in an open innovation climate modeling community?

2) What are the similarities and differences of climate modeling to these communities that might help to advance or prohibit the development of a broader, more inclusive, climate modeling activity? Or stated in another way: is climate modeling in some way unique?

I have already hinted at one of the elements of successful software communities - there must exist, namely, governance. When I first started discussing open communities with my manager colleagues in national laboratories, their first response was that climate models could not be developed, evaluated, and implemented in an uncontrolled, anarchist environment. In case you have forgotten, I started this blog with the statement that I was a government manager, and I felt that control was important to me to deliver evaluated systems on time and within budget. It is important to realize, to inculcate, that open communities are not ungoverned, and if they are functional, they are not anarchist. So the development of governance approaches is an essential element; one that will be addressed more fully in future entries.

Approaching the second question posed above, how is climate modeling different from the software developed in the successful software communities mentioned above? One difference is the need to express complex phenomena with quantitative, scientific expressions. In an earlier entry I posed you could image a climate model by posing the following questions: If you were to look around at the clouds, sky, the plants, the people, the landscape, the streams, and ask the question – how do I represent these things as numbers? How do I represent how these things will change? How do I represent how these things interact with each other?

If you imagine developing the operating system for a computer, there are certain well defined tasks that need to be done, and it is possible to check with some precision whether or not you have accomplished the task. In climate modeling such precise definition is not possible, which means there is always an element of scientific judgment that is needed in the evaluation of whether or not the development of a component or sub-component has been successful. And, there is no reason to expect that combining successful sub-components and components yields a functioning climate model. Some would state that building, evaluating and deploying a successful climate model is not just a matter of building software, but it is a combined science-software activity. There is concern that community approaches that have been successful for task-oriented software projects cannot adequately incorporate the scientific integrity needed for proper climate model evaluation. This need to maintain science-based evaluation is perhaps the most formidable hurdle that must be addressed, not only, towards the ambitious goal I outline of configurable models for use by non-experts, but even for broader inclusion of the expert community.

I will end this entry here. Note a couple of new things below.


Another Big Flood

There have been a lot of big floods in the past year. Now we have the record flood in Australia (a great summary in the Boston Globe). I argued that the 2010 flood in Pakistan brought together people, geography, societal assets, wealth, weather and climate in a way that it was a case study in a climate disaster. So does the Australian flood, but it is, perhaps, on the opposite side of the scale.

Figure 1. From the Australian flood. Taken from the excellent summary at the Boston Globe.

Pakistani Flood Relief Links

Doctors Without Borders

The International Red Cross

MERLIN medical relief charity

U.S. State Department Recommended Charities

The mobile giving service mGive allows one to text the word "SWAT" to 50555. The text will result in a $10 donation to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Pakistan Flood Relief Effort.

Portlight Disaster Relief at Wunderground.com

An impressive list of organizations

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

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Member Since: Dezembro 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Hey Michael and McBill, I'm glad the TWO of YOU have it all worked out. In the meantime, would EITHER of YOU have time to shovel my driveway?
Member Since: Dezembro 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting McBill:
Good article in the Times today:

Topsy-Turvy Weather: U.S. Is Frigid, Arctic Balmy

Hey McBill, what kind of global sea surface temperatures are we experiencing these days? Just curious.
Member Since: Dezembro 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Well, here's the weather for the rest of winter. By the way NOAA had the weather this winter just plain wrong. They predicted warmer than normal for the midwest back in October. NOAA has been wrong for three consecutive winters for the most part. But, hey, who's counting? I'm sure that even though they can't get the next month right, they get that 20, 40 and 100 year prediction right on.
The Weather
Member Since: Dezembro 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Hey Michael. I have a climate prediction for you. Within the next 24 months the UN will begin to hear grumblings that the IPCC should be ended. Within 48 months it will be ended.
Member Since: Dezembro 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting cyclonebuster:

Didn't "Neanderthal Man" trust his senses? Look where it got him!

actually Neandertlals were on Earth from about 600,000 years ago until about 35,000 years ago. Whereas Cro Magnum, that's you Cyclone, have only been here for about 35,000 years. So much for that stupidity.

Do you deny that the USA and Europe are experiencing their coldest winters since the 80s or 70s? I see Michael wants to do that. He is wrong. Michael is a deceiver, but we all know how that usually works out. Sooner or later it catches up with you as it will this time as the Earth rapidly cools and the climate models fail.

So, Cyclone, if you wish, you may stick your head in the ground like an ostrich or you can start paying attention. It seems the weather men are calling it right while the climatologists are scrambling to adjust their models.

Member Since: Dezembro 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
The Weather In Europe

It does seem that the weathermen are having better luck, I mean better predictions of the weather lately. They seem to suggest that it's going to be cold for a while.

Maybe it's because the climate models aren't real science.
Climate Model Issues

I don't really know much about the climate thing, but it sure does seem cold and snowy this year and last where I live. Perhaps if I lived on the southwest coast of Greenland I'd have a better understanding of the climate.

I notice that the middle of Greenland is pretty cold. I notice that the world's oceans are pretty cold. I wonder why the only warm place these days seems to be that area on the southwest side of Greenland. It seems to be the focus of My Buster's posts.

Hows things in the north central United States of America and North Central Europe these days Mr. Buster? They setting any warm records these days? It's a shame all those folks live where it's so cold lately when there's so much vacant real estate in Greenland.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting MichaelSTL:
Also, I think this is absolutely insane (200 mb heights in 2010):

Note that this was during an El Nino, but the current map is very similar with overwhelmingly positive height anomalies - clearly NOT normal.

Good luck , Michael, but it's going to take a lot more than pretty pictures. The USA is experiencing its coldest winter since the 80s, maybe the 70s. So, your pretty pictures become pretty meaningless. We all know that we should trust our senses, not NOAA and not you. So, hang it up. Go skiing or build an ice castle. Global warming is a dead issue for a now.

Member Since: Dezembro 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:

such anomalies are nothing more than weather.

what is the trend of 5oomb hight since 1948 to 2010?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: Dezembro 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Member Since: Dezembro 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting LoveStormsatNight:
Climate scientists targeted for fraud

Fraudsters are targeting climate scientists with fake conferences in a bid to make cash and obtain details.

Absolutely despicable! Thought you'd want a heads up Dr. Rood.

There was a movie called The Flim-Flam Man. OMG, it was out in 1967. Anyways, the key to a con artists scam is the greed of the target. So, I wonder what this tells you about the interests of the targets in this case. Could it be more grants and other incentives available to attendants to the fraudulent conference?
Member Since: Dezembro 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Too cold for recess?

Canceling recess because of the cold is no small issue given that much of the USA is shivering through what may be its coldest winter in a generation, according to AccuWeather.

•In Vermont, at Orchard Elementary School in South Burlington, Principal Mark Trifilio reports kids are gung-ho to get outside — even if it's snowing and 10 degrees. "The kids are pretty hardy," Trifilio says. "They like the outdoors. A lot of students really like to be out there. They don't mind the cold for the most part."

Parents are indeed concerned that children get their time at recess.

Facebook pages have sprung up in Long Island, N.Y., and Maryland with such titles as "Promoting Outdoor Recess for Long Island Children" and "Montgomery County Public School Parents Support Outdoor Recess in the Cold" as parents want to ensure their children are getting the outdoor time the kids need during this unusually chilly winter.

usa today today
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting MichaelSTL:
This is getting embarrassing for those who called for major global cooling - not only is it now a lot warmer than 2008, it is even warmer than 2009 - despite a much stronger La Nina (it only has to overcome 0.04°C of warming, based on a trend of 0.2°C per decade over two years)!

Michael, your post is just absurd. Your graph shows that at 14,000 feet the Earth is at about average relative to the last 30 years and much colder than 2010. Are you just being silly? Or do you think you can get away with saying stupid stuff. Also, where is your sea surface graph and your near surface graph? Would we find those interesting? Your post is a pathetic attempt to distort with statistics.
Member Since: Dezembro 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:

Member Since: Dezembro 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting LoveStormsatNight:
I'm skepticall about the effectiveness of bans JFLORIDA.
HAHAHAHA! That's funny, right there!
Member Since: Dezembro 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:

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Dr. Ricky Rood's Climate Change Blog

About RickyRood

I'm a professor at U Michigan and lead a course on climate change problem solving. These articles often come from and contribute to the course.

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