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Saturday, May 12, 2007

The UK Met Office and research into climate change

As a follow up to my last post I have just checked the link on this blog to the UK Met Office and its Hadley Centre and note that they have provided detailed notes on the several areas of complaint against ill informed comment of the kind seen in the Channel 4 programme:
Here is a link to the relevant Met Office / Hadley Centre web page:

It seems sensible for all of us to look for reliable sources of factual information when we are forming our own opinions on such important issues.
We should be considering the future of our world in the same way as Bill Shankley once described the game of football at Liverpool FC. "It not a matter of life and death , its more important than that".

The web site deals with what they describe as common myths.

Myth 1 - Ice core records show that changes in temperature drive changes in carbon dioxide, and it is not carbon dioxide that is driving the current warming.

The bottom line is that temperature and CO2 concentrations are linked. In recent ice ages, natural changes in the climate (due to orbit changes for example) led to cooling of the climate system. This caused a fall in CO2 concentrations which weakened the greenhouse effect and amplified the cooling. Now the link between temperature and CO2 is working in the opposite direction. Human-induced increases in CO2 is enhancing the greenhouse effect and amplifying the recent warming.

Myth 2 - Solar activity is the main driver of climate change.

The bottom line is that changes in solar activity do affect global temperatures. However, what research also shows is that increased greenhouse gas concentrations have a much greater effect than changes in the Sun’s energy over the last 50 years.

Myth 3 - There is less warming in the upper atmosphere than at the surface which disproves human-induced warming.

The bottom line is that observations are now consistent with increased warming through the troposphere.

Myth 4 - The intensity of cosmic rays changes climate.

The bottom line is, even if cosmic rays have a detectable effect on climate (and this remains unproven), measured solar activity over the last few decades has not significantly changed and cannot explain the continued warming trend. In contrast, increases in CO2 are well measured and its warming effect is well quantified. It offers the most plausible explanation of most of the recent warming and future increases.

Myth 5 - Climate models are too complex and uncertain to provide useful projections of climate change.

The bottom line is that current models enable us to attribute the causes of past climate change and predict the main features of the future climate with a high degree of confidence. We now need to provide more regional detail and more complete analysis of extreme events.

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