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Monday, 23 November 2009

Climate change again.

In one of those CRU E mails

One prominent IPCC researcher concerned about this gap in knowledge is Simon Tett from the Hadley Centre for climate modelling at the Meteorological Office, home to one of the world's five leading global circulation models, capable of recreating a mathematical version of how the atmosphere works and of running simulations of climatic changes over decades or even centuries. He says that "in the past, our estimates of natural variability have been based on climate models." But this autumn [date?], he says, those estimates have been thrown into turmoil by a paper published in the journal The Holocene. In it, Tim Barnett of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, part of the University of California at San Diego, compared model estimates of natural temperature fluctuations over the past 400 years with the best evidence from the real world -- from instruments in the past century and "proxy data", such as Briffa's tree rings, from before that.

The result was bad news for the modellers. The two models examined -- one German, the other American -- generated a natural variability of around 0.1 degree C per century. This was less than half that revealed in the proxy data. "Of course we don't have to believe the proxy data. They certainly have problems attached to them. But my belief is that they both models, and proxy data too, underestimate real variability," says Barnett

The models' error was not, perhaps, too surprising. As Barnett points out, they do not include vital "forcing" mechanisms that alter temperature, such as solar cycles and volcanic eruptions. Nor can they yet mimic the strength of the largest year-on-year variability in the natural system, the El Nino oscillation in the Pacific Ocean, which has a global impact on climate.

Nonetheless, the findings should serve as a warning, Barnett says, that "the current models cannot be used in rigorous tests for anthropogenic signals in the real world". If they are they "might lead us to believe that an anthropogenic signal had been found when, in fact, that may not be the case."

The science is settled then? Glad I'm only an engineer.

And does anyone know anything about this woman?

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis
A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria
Phone : +43 2236 807-0
Fax : +43 2236 71313

She seems quite important to the story.

PS. Real climate won't publish this

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