More Presentation Of Climate Predictions as Scientific Fact

There is a new Science paper

Richard Seager, Mingfang Ting, Isaac Held, Yochanan Kushnir, Jian Lu, Gabriel Vecchi, Huei-Ping Huang, Nili Harnik, Ants Leetmaa, Ngar-Cheung Lau, Cuihua Li, Jennifer Velez, and Naomi Naik: Model Projections of an Imminent Transition to a More Arid Climate in Southwestern North America Published online 9 April 2007 [DOI: 10.1126/science.1139601] (in Science Express Reports) [thanks to Willie Soon for alerting us to it]

The abstract reads

“How anthropogenic climate change will impact hydroclimate in the arid regions of Southwestern North America has implications for the allocation of water resources and the course of regional development. Here we show that there is a broad consensus amongst climate models that this region will dry significantly in the 21st century and that the transition to a more arid climate should already be underway. If these models are correct, the levels of aridity of the recent multiyear drought, or the Dust Bowl and 1950s droughts, will, within the coming years to decades, become the new climatology of the American Southwest.”

An excerpt from the paper reads,

“In the multi-model ensemble mean there is a transition to a sustained drier climate that begins in the late 20th and early21st centuries”


“The drying of subtropical land areas that, according to the models is imminent or already underway, is unlike any climate state we have seen in the instrumental record. It is also distinct from the multidecadal megadroughts that afflicted the American Southwest during Medieval times …which have also been attributed to changes in tropical SSTs…The most severe future droughts will still occur during persistent La Niña events but they will be worse than any since the Medieval period because the La Niña conditions will be perturbing a base state that is drier than any experienced recently.”

This result appears to be contradictory to an earlier study

Trenberth, K. E., T. J. Hoar, El Niño and climate change, Geophys. Res. Lett., 24(23), 3057-3060, 10.1029/97GL03092, 1997.

Their abstract reads,

“A comprehensive statistical analysis of how an index of the Southern Oscillation changed from 1882 to 1995 was given by Trenberth and Hoar [1996], with a focus on the unusual nature of the 1990–1995 El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) warm event in the context of an observed trend for more El Niño and fewer La Niña events after the late 1970s. The conclusions of that study have been challenged by two studies which deal with only the part of our results pertaining to the length of runs of anomalies of one sign in the Southern Oscillation Index. They therefore neglect the essence of Trenberth and Hoar, which focussed on the magnitude of anomalies for certain periods and showed that anomalies during both the post-1976 and 1990–mid-1995 periods were highly unlikely given the previous record. With updated data through mid 1997, we have performed additional tests using a regression model with autoregressive-moving average (ARMA) errors that simultaneously estimates the appropriate ARMA model to fit the data and assesses the statistical significance of how unusual the two periods of interest are. The mean SOI for the post-1976 period is statistically different from the overall mean at <0.05% and so is the 1990–mid-1995 period. The recent evolution of ENSO, with a major new El Niño event underway in 1997, reinforces the evidence that the tendency for more El Niño and fewer La Niña events since the late 1970s is highly unusual and very unlikely to be accounted for solely by natural variability.”

The 2007 Science paper is yet another example of overselling of a process study as we discuss in our book

Cotton, W.R. and R.A. Pielke, 2007: Human impacts on weather and climate, Cambridge University Press, 330 pp.

The Seager et al 2007 paper is clearly is an example of the publication of a prediction, which has yet to be tested in its accuracy, as a scientific contribution. At least, with their claim of almost perpetual drought in the Southwest USA, we can track this over the next few years to either refute or support their conclusions.

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Filed under Climate Change Metrics, Climate Models

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