The Science Is Settled – Send Us More Money!
By Paul Homewood
There’s a classic piece on the Met Office blog today, which highlights so much that is wrong with climate science nowadays.
There is a load of bull about melting ice etc, but anybody who might have thought that, as the “science” is now settled, we could stop funding climate science and use the money for something more useful, will have to think again:-
To answer these questions more precisely will require scientists to get an even more detailed understanding of how sensitive our climate is to CO2 and other greenhouse gases.
Key to this will be improving understanding of what we call ‘Earth system feedbacks’. These are natural feedback processes which could either increase or decrease the amount of warming we might expect in response to a given amount of greenhouse gases. For example, we know that there are stores of greenhouse gases ‘locked away’ under frozen ground (permafrost) in some parts of the world, such as northern Russia. If that permafrost melts due to climate change, the gases would be released – which could further increase warming.
Scientists around the world are already working on providing answers to these questions by developing a new breed of ‘Earth System Models’ (essentially complex simulations of our planet run on powerful supercomputers), which take more of these feedback processes into account, and so will help inform planning of emissions to achieve the warming targets agreed in Paris.
Whether we limit warming to 2 °C or 1.5 °C, it’s clear we can expect some further change to our global climate over the coming decades. Research shows us that this will lead to some impacts and it’s vital that we understand in more detail what this means at a regional and local level.
For example, research tells us that some parts of the world can expect more extreme weather – including heat waves and increases in extreme rainfall. For those planning everything from future homes, to flood defences, to vital infrastructure, the detail on what to expect is essential.
Again, these are questions which science is already working to answer by harnessing new research and ever more powerful supercomputing technology. At the Met Office, we’ve published papers showing that we can expect more intense summer downpours for the UK in future – which raises the risk of flash flooding. We’ve also shown how the chances of summer heatwaves in Europe have dramatically increased.
There’s still much more work to do in this area and it will be vital that the information generated by this research is presented in a way that allows everyone to make informed decisions about how we can become more resilient to our climate – whatever changes we can expect.
Translation – Please send us lots more money!
We can see how this operates using the example of the “more intense summer downpours” they refer to. This turns out to a joint project between the Met Office and Newcastle University, called CONVEX, which was funded for three and a half years by the NERC.
Last year, the Met Office scientist, Lizzie Kendon told us that extreme summer rainfall may become more frequent in the UK due to climate change:
Extreme summer rainfall may become more frequent in the UK due to climate change, according to new research led by the Met Office in collaboration with Newcastle University
While summers are expected to become drier overall by 2100, intense rainfall indicative of serious flash flooding could become several times more frequent.
The results from the study, published in Nature Climate Change, are the first step towards building a more complete picture of how UK rainfall may change as our climate warms.
Dr Lizzie Kendon, lead author of the research at the Met Office, said: "Until now, climate models haven’t been able to simulate how extreme hourly rainfall might change in future. The very high resolution model used in this study allows us to examine these changes for the first time.
"It shows heavier summer downpours in the future, with almost five times more events exceeding 28mm in one hour in the future than in the current climate – changes we might expect theoretically as the world warms. However, we need to be careful as the result is only based on one model – so we need to wait for other centres to run similarly detailed simulations to see whether their results support these findings."
Climate models, which generally work at coarse resolutions, have been able to accurately simulate winter rainfall and have suggested generally wetter winters with the potential for higher daily rainfall rates in the future.
In summer, however, it is the hourly rates that are more important as rain tends to fall in short but intense bursts – as seen during the Boscastle flooding of 2004 and ‘Toon Flood’ in Newcastle in 2012. Climate models have so far lacked the resolution to accurately simulate the smaller-scale convective storms which cause this type of rain.
To deal with this issue, this study uses a climate model with a higher resolution than ever used before to examine future rainfall change – using 1.5km grid boxes instead of the usual 12km or larger – the same as the Met Office weather forecast model. This model gives a realistic representation of hourly rainfall, allowing us to make future projections with some confidence.
It was so computer intensive that only the southern half of the UK could be studied and even then it took the Met Office supercomputer – one of the most powerful in the world – about nine months to run the simulations.
These simulations looked at two 13-year periods, one based on current climate and one based on expected climate around 2100.
Prof Hayley Fowler, from Newcastle University‘s School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, and lead on the CONVEX project, added: "We need to understand about possible changes to summer and winter rainfall so we can make informed decisions about how to manage these very different flooding risks in the future. The changes we have found are consistent with increases we would expect in extreme rainfall with increasing temperatures and will mean more flash floods.
"The next steps are to see if these changes are consistent with observed trends in summer rainfall extremes and changes projected by climate models in other parts of the world. We will be looking at this over the next five years, jointly with the Met Office and other leading international scientists in the European Research Council funded INTENSE project."
We can see a familiar pattern.
1) Set up the scare that extreme rainfall and flooding will increase with climate change.
2) Collect a nice fat grant to investigate it properly.
3) Do some model simulations, which build in the very assumptions that are guaranteed to provide the answers you are looking for.
4) Say you need to do a lot more work to firm up on your research and provide more accurate forecasts.
5) Pass GO, and collect another fat five year grant.
And while they are running this scam, actual data shows that the very opposite of what they are projecting has been occurring. We don’t, of course, have much hourly data available to give any long term trends. But we do have daily rainfall data for stations such as Oxford, Heathrow, Ross-on Wye and Shawbury, which are representative of the southern half of the UK, which their study is based on.
[Daily data for Ross-on-Wye only available from the Met Office up to 2010]
Far from summer rainfall becoming more intense, the opposite has happened as temperatures have risen. These are, as I say, only daily rainfalls, but it is not realistic to suppose that peak hourly rainfalls would increase at the same time that daily ones declined. I am certainly not aware of any mechanism by which this could happen.
Now, you might have thought that Lizzie Kendon and the rest of the grant troughers would have actually checked some of the historical data before they proceeded any further.
But then they would have had to go out and get some proper jobs!
Slingo and co have been pushing this extreme hourly rainfall scare for a few years now, even though they have no real data to base it on. Could the reason be that daily rainfall extremes show no such increase?
The NERC, or National Environmental Research Council, is the UK’s main agency for funding and managing research, training and knowledge exchange in the environmental sciences, covering the full range of atmospheric, Earth, biological, terrestrial and aquatic science, from the deep oceans to the upper atmosphere and from the poles to the equator. NERC co-ordinate some of the world’s most exciting research projects, tackling major issues such as climate change, environmental influences on human health, the genetic make-up of life on Earth. NERC is a non-departmental public body, receiving around £370m of annual funding from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills.
Much of this funding goes to climate related studies.
All data supplied by the Met Office