Tuesday, August 03, 2010

The Climate Models Were Right!

I've heard the deniers go on and on about how the models used in climate prediction are wrong, or can't be right or are just models and don't mean anything in the real world. Problem is, they are right:

Last January, the Met Office announced that it believed this year would, indeed, be a record scorcher. Given that Britain was then coated in thick snow, the prediction was brave.

It was accurate nevertheless. Western Europe and eastern America may then have been going through a grim, cold winter but other areas – including Asia and western America – were experiencing unexpectedly hot weather. The overall trend was a warming one. Few took notice, however, and the Little Englander's myopic view of the world – that only local events matter – continued to dominate newspaper columns and blogs. Global warming was nonsense, they insisted.

Thus the deniers got it wrong while climate scientists got it spectacularly right. Indeed, we should note just how prescient the latter have been. In 1999, the Met Office's head of climate modelling Peter Stott – working with Oxford University's Myles Allen and other meteorologists – published a paper in Nature on the likely impact of greenhouse gas emissions. Using temperature data from 1946 to 1996, the paper estimated future global temperatures and included a graph of a range of predicted outcomes for 2000 to 2040 with a dotted line indicating the most likely path. Crucially, for the year 2010, that dotted line showed there would be a rise of 0.8C since the Second World War– which is exactly what we are experiencing today.

So scientists not only predicted how hot this year was likely to be six months ago, they forecast a decade ago just how much the world would heat up 10 years later. Bear this in mind when deniers tell you climate science is a conspiracy or the work of charlatans. They are talking rubbish.

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