02-03-2015, 12:27 PM
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| Addressing one of the last remaining refuges of AGW denialists, the "global warming slowdown":
Global warming slowdown:
No systematic errors in climate models, comprehensive statistical analysis reveals
Date: February 2, 2015
Excerpts eptics who still doubt anthropogenic climate change have now been stripped of one of their last-ditch arguments: It is true that there has been a warming hiatus and that the surface of Earth has warmed up much less rapidly since the turn of the millennium than all the relevant climate models had predicted. However, the gap between the calculated and measured warming is not due to systematic errors of the models, as the skeptics had suspected, but because there are always random fluctuations in Earth's climate. Recently, Jochem Marotzke, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, and Piers M. Forster, a professor at the University of Leeds in the UK, have impressively demonstrated this by means of a comprehensive statistical analysis. They also clearly showed that the models do not generally overestimate human-made climate change. Global warming is therefore highly likely to reach critical proportions by the end of the century -- if the global community does not finally get to grips with the problem.
"The claim that climate models systematically overestimate global warming caused by rising greenhouse gas concentrations is wrong," says Jochem Marotzke. Climate skeptics often make precisely this claim, citing the warming pause as evidence. Yet they cannot deny that nine of the ten warmest years since systematic climate observations began have occurred in the new millennium and that global warming has slowed at a very high level. The skeptics also ignore the fact that ocean temperatures continue to rise as rapidly as many models have predicted.
"On the whole, the simulated trends agreed well with the observations"
To explain the puzzling discrepancy between model simulations and observations, Jochem Marotzke and Piers M. Forster proceeded in two steps. First, they compared simulated and observed temperature trends over all 15-year periods since the start of the 20th century. For each year between 1900 and 2012 they considered the temperature trend that each of the 114 available models predicted for the subsequent 15 years. They then compared the results with measurements of how the temperature actually rose or fell. By simulating the average global temperature and other climatic variables of the past and comparing the results with observations, climatologists are able to check the reliability of their models. If the simulations prove more or less accurate in this respect, they can also provide useful predictions for the future.
The 114 model calculations withstood the comparison. Particularly as an ensemble, they reflect reality quite well: "On the whole, the simulated trends agree with the observations," says Jochem Marotzke. The most pessimistic and most optimistic predictions of warming in the 15 subsequent years for each given year usually differed by around 0.3 degrees Celsius. However, the majority of the models predicted a temperature rise roughly midway between the two extremes. The observed trends are sometimes at the upper limit, sometimes at the lower limit, and often in the middle, so that, taken together, the simulations appear plausible. "In particular, the observed trends are not skewed in any discernible way compared to the simulations," Marotzke explains. If that were the case, it would suggest a systematic error in the models.
Earth will continue to warm up
"The difference in sensitivity explains nothing really," says Jochem Marotzke. "I only believed that after I had very carefully scrutinised the data on which our graphs are based." Until now, even climatologists have assumed that their models simulate different temperature rises because they respond with different degrees of sensitivity to increased amounts of solar energy in the atmosphere. The community of climatologists will greet this finding with relief, but perhaps also with some disappointment. It is now clear that it is not possible to make model predictions more accurate by tweaking them -- randomness does not respond to tweaking.
Quite apart from their role as scientists, researchers have another reason for greeting the study with mixed feelings: no all-clear signal has been sounded. Climatologists have been fairly correct with their predictions. This means: if we continue as before, Earth will continue to warm up -- with consequences, particularly for developing countries, that we can only begin to fathom.
Last edited by Rhumb; 02-03-2015 at 04:37 PM.