Never confuse ‘scientists forecasting’ with scientific forecasting. Most scientists don’t know the basic principles of scientific forecasting. In Global Warming: Forecasts by Scientists versus Scientific Forecasting (Energy & Environment, Vol. 18, No. 7+8, 2007), Green and Armstrong state
Specifically, we have been unable to find a scientific forecast to support the currently widespread belief in “global warming”…Based on our literature searches, those forecasting long-term climate change have no apparent knowledge of evidence-based forecasting methods…
Thus rather foolishly, the head of the Climate Programme at the Met Office, Dr Vicky Pope, assured us back in 2007 that now routinely on the Met Office’s computers
Much longer predictions are run, typically…predicting the next 100 to 1,000 years.
Predicting the next 1000 years? Fat chance!
The UK Met Office have recently produced the ‘UK Climate Projections 2009’ (UKCP09) which purports to project ‘how the UK climate may change for the 30-year period from 2070–2099 at a resolution of 25 km’. The Met office are expecting us to believe that they have a good idea what the climate will be like within any 25km x 25km cell over the whole of the UK out to the end of the century. Note the word ‘project’ rather than ‘predict’ or ‘forecast’. Anyone can project anything, and by devising different models there will be different projections. In fact, a projection is essentially meaningless – one can draw a straight line through any trend and call it a ‘projection’. So long as we don’t consider a projection to be a prediction or a forecast, then it is just a bit of speculation (or fun) and no weight should ever be attached to it in terms of planning or risk assessment and mitigation.
But the Met Office and Defra are playing fast and loose with this and are treating the UKCP09 projections as predictions to be used for planning, risk assessment and mitigation by everyone. The Met Office says
It is vital governments, businesses, organisations and individuals understand the challenges ahead and prepare for them now…UK Climate Projections 2009 (UKCP09) is a climate analysis tool, funded by Defra, which features the most comprehensive climate projections ever produced. Projections are broken down to a regional level across the UK and are shown in probabilistic form — illustrating the potential range of changes and the level of confidence in each prediction.
Yes, you read it correctly, it does say prediction, and they are telling you within 90% confidence limits what is going to happen before it happens, over the next 90 years. We’ll show just how unlikely this is in another post shortly. But this is what the renowned climatologist R.A. Pielke Sr, (Senior Research Scientist, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), University of Colorado in Boulder, and Professor Emeritus of the Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins) has to say about UKCP09:
This study…is clearly a subversion of the scientific method. To state that that climate science is being stretched is quite an understatement. There is absolutely no multi-decadal prediction skill on the spatial scales presented in this study.
The scientists who present the viewpoint of skillful multi-decadal regional predictions to policymakers are deliberately and dishonestly misinforming the public and policymakers. (emphasis original)
What’s more, Mike Hulme, Professor of Climate Change at the University of East Anglia and listed as a reviewer of this report, passes judgment as follows (emphasis added):
Unfortunately predictive skill is unknown for climate at the decade-to-century timescale. Unlike weather forecasts, whose value in informing decision-making can routinely be tested over time by comparison with observed weather patterns, there is currently no such empirical evidence with which to test the skill of climate predictions. Moreover, as knowledge of the climate system and how it responds to greenhouse gases improves, model predictions will change, as will their probability distributions. Because decision-makers lack experience in using climate predictions, there is a risk that they will place too much confidence in the results.
Now, the High Priestess of the Met Oracle Office is its Chief Scientist, Julia Slingo, OBE. A year ago Slingo was Professor of Meteorology at Reading University, with an illustrious 36-year career in meteorology behind her, who in May 6-9, 2008 part-chaired the World Modelling Summit for Climate Prediction at Reading, at which she also presented a paper.
The National Centre for Atmospheric Science, commenting on the summit, state on their website:
Interestingly, a starting point for the meeting was the conclusion from a working group already set up by the World Climate Research Program and the World Weather Research Programme, that “regional projections from the current generation of climate models are sufficiently uncertain to compromise this goal of providing society with reliable predictions of regional climate change”
And they concluded:
At the end of the four-day meeting the scientists had agreed that massive investment in computer and research resources was critical for revolutionising modelling capabilities so that predictions could capture the detail required to inform policy. Professor Julia Slingo, Director of the NCAS Climate programme and part of the International Organising Committee for the Summit, told BBC News that several hundred million pounds of investment were needed.
Professor Julia Slingo, Founding Director of the Walker Institute, argues that the accurate climate change predictions required by society, from governments to insurance companies, cannot be supplied by the current generation of climate models or by the computing power currently available.
The abstract of her paper at the Summit in May, 2008, is as follows (see last page):
Julia Slingo (National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS),
University of Reading)
Where do we go from here? Possible ways forward for achieving a revolution in climate prediction.
The talk will take as its premise that an enhancement of human and computing resources is essential to deliver the step change in our capability to produce climate predictions, especially at the regional and local level, and with the level of confidence required by society in order for decisions to be taken on how to mitigate and adapt to climate variability and change. It will consider the challenges that face us and the potential options to achieve this change; and it will present some ideas on organisational structures that might serve to deliver this revolution in climate research and prediction in the coming decade and beyond.
And Slingo stated
We’ve reached the end of the road of being able to improve models significantly so we can provide the sort of information that policymakers and business require.
So the climate models themselves are currently too uncertain to be able to provide predictive information for policymakers. But more than this, Slingo stated that even if the models could be improved, supercomputers of 1000 times more computing power (others at the Summit said 10,000 times more) than is currently available would be required to be able to make predictions at a local level.
This is what she told the BBC:
In terms of computing power, it’s proving totally inadequate. With climate models we know how to make them much better to provide much more information at the local level…but we don’t have the computing power to deliver it.
That was May, 2008.
The World Climate Research Programme report on the summit, published in January 2009 recorded that
There is general agreement that providing improved information at the regional and local level requires significant increases in model resolution, which are currently limited by insufficient computer power. We also noted…the requirement for an enhancement of intellectual firepower to attack these problems.
These challenges require a concerted, international response. Whilst it is imperative that national activities are enhanced significantly, we also recognized that ‘business-as-usual’ will not deliver the step change required to respond to societal needs. Alongside an ongoing enhancement of national activities, the proposal was made for a global facility (or federation) to be established, based around one or more dedicated high-end computing facilities, which would have a capability of 2-3 orders of magnitude above what is currently available nationally.
The summit statement (also in the report published in January 2009) concluded that
Despite tremendous progress in climate modeling and the capability of high-end computers in the past 30 years, our ability to provide robust estimates of the risk to society, particularly from possible catastrophic changes in regional climate, is constrained by limitations in computer power and scientific understanding…However, neither the necessary scientific expertise nor the computational capability is available in any single nation. A comprehensive international effort is essential.
Sorry to labour the point, but it’s important for what follows.
In June 2008, Slingo was awarded the OBE, then in July 2008 she was appointed Chief Scientist of the Met Office. This has all gone to her head. Remember, just a few months ago her stated view and that of her colleagues was that the present state of climate models and computing power made it impossible to be able to give useful predictive information to policymakers, especially at the regional and local level. To do so required a veritable revolution, huge expense, and international co-operation. Now, less than a year on, she’s had a remarkable conversion to the smoke and mirrors of the climate change religion. Not only is it now possible to give predictions for policymakers to 25km resolution out to the end of the century, but her Met Office have done it – all in a few weeks, without a revolution, without the essential investment, without the additional intellectual firepower, without the improved models, and without the international co-operation. A veritable miracle indeed!
Thus the UKCP09 propaganda is wheeled out, and Slingo lauds it as follows:
Through UKCP09 the Met Office has provided the world’s most comprehensive regional climate projections with a unique assessment of the possible changes to our climate through the rest of this century.
For the first time businesses and authorities have the tools to help them make risk-based decisions to adapt to the challenges of our changing climate.
It’s a lie, of course.