Are Multi-Decadal Climate Forecasts For the Rocky Mountiains Skillful?

Yesterday, I participated in a meeting at Colorado College entitled ” 2006 State of the Rockies Report Conference“. The Report by Colorado College that was compiled for this Conference is very informative, and recommended to anyone who would like an overview of the variety of political, demographic and other changes underway in this region.

There is an important issue with the session that I was involved with, however, that is misleading in terms of how it is presented to the public and news media.

My session was entitled “Climate Change- What Happens in a Warmer Rockies?”.

A news release on the session was headlined

“Is Colorado’s Ski Industry Doomed Due To Global Warming?
Study Says Disaster Possible By 2050”

The article opened with,

“Global warming may spell disaster for much of the Rocky Mountain West’s ski industry by the year 2050, according to a climate-trends model showing dramatic snowpack loss due to climate warming. The climate model results are part of the 2006 Colorado College State of the Rockies Report Card, released this week.”

Although I am listed as a presenter at the session in the news article, the content of my talk was not reported on at all in the article. The powerpoint slides of my talk, titled ” Consequences of Climate Change and Variability in the Rocky Mountains – The Need for a Vulnerability Assessment Framework “, discuss that such forecasts have no demonstrated regional predictive skill. The news article and the specific section in the 2006 State of the Rockies Report are misleading in terms of the skill in regional multi-decadal climate projections. In the April 7 Climate Science weblog, examples of quotes by other climate scientists on the current inability to make such regional forecasts was presented.

While the study in the State of the Rockies Report is a useful “what if”, and fits into the definition of a “process” study as defined in the July 15 2005 weblog entitled “What Are Climate Models? What Do They Do?”, to communicate these model results to the public as forecasts is misleading and inappropriate.

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