Deferred Forecasts Of Global Warming – An Example Of The Misuse of Science

A blatant example of masking an untested hypothesis as a scientific paper has been published in Science. The paper is

“Improved Surface Temperature Prediction for the Coming Decade from a Global Climate Modelâ€? Doug M. Smith, Stephen Cusack, Andrew W. Colman, Chris K. Folland, Glen R. Harris, and James M. Murphy (10 August 2007) Science 317 (5839), 796. [DOI: 10.1126/science.1139540].

The abstract reads,

“Previous climate model projections of climate change accounted for external forcing from natural and anthropogenic sources but did not attempt to predict internally generated natural variability. We present a new modeling system that predicts both internal variability and externally forced changes and hence forecasts surface temperature with substantially improved skill throughout a decade, both globally and in many regions. Our system predicts that internal variability will partially offset the anthropogenic global warming signal for the next few years. However, climate will continue to warm, with at least half of the years after 2009 predicted to exceed the warmest year currently on record.â€?

The August 9, 2007 Reuters reports on this article by writing

“Global warming is forecast to set in with a vengeance after 2009, with at least half of the five following years expected to be hotter than 1998, the warmest year on record, scientists reported on Thursday.

Climate experts have long predicted a general warming trend over the 21st century spurred by the greenhouse effect, but this new study gets more specific about what is likely to happen in the decade that started in 2005….

The real heat will start after 2009, they said.”

This is a very convenient and clearly contrived presentation to defer the expectation that significant global warming will occur for a few years, so that the particular policy actions (on energy policy as concluded on Climate Science; e.g. see) can occur.

The UK Met Office had a press release on this paper on August 10, 2007 titled

“The forecast for 2014…”

They write in this press release,

“These predictions are very relevant to businesses and policy-makers who will be able to respond to short-term climate change when making decisions today. The next decade is within many people’s understanding and brings home the reality of a changing climate.”

However, no one has shown any predictive skill on this time scale! That Science published this article speaks more for their use of this forum for advocacy, rather than as a science paper. Policymakers are bing misled if they accept that this prediction is skillful.

Climate Science has presented documentation on the inability of the multi-decadal global models to make skillful predictions (e.g. see and see, as just two examples).

Readers of paper such as Smith et al should recognize that the publication of climate process studies as predictions is misleading. Such predictions are just hypotheses, which can be tested only after the time period has passed.

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Filed under Climate Science Misconceptions, Climate Science Op-Eds, Climate Science Reporting

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