Thursday, June 01, 2006

More climate change modelling problems

Scientists have uncovered evidence of the Arctic's tropical past, via 400 ft cores drilled from the area.
The core revealed that before 55 million years ago, the surface waters of the Arctic Ocean were ice-free and as warm as 18C (64F).

But the sudden increase in greenhouse gasses boosted them to a balmy 24C (75F) and the waters suddenly filled with a tropical algae Apectodinium.

All very interesting obviously, but why would this be a problem? Surely it just reinforces the idea of global warming?
"Before we did this it was thought that the ice field in the Northern hemisphere only began about three million years ago, but now we have pushed that back to 45 million years ago."

Although the data tells us how the world changed from one with green house conditions to one with ice house conditions millions of years ago, it may also help scientists to predict what will result from the present changes in climate.

Appy Sluijs points out that the data reveals that some of the climate models used to detail the Arctic's history got things wrong, and as they are the same models that predict our future climate they may need adjusting.

So, the models that we are using to predict climate change are not only wrong from an economic perspective but also in the scientific modelling (both from this new information and on the solar warming aspect). "Well, let's just remodel it!", I hear you cry; and I would call your demand a very sensible one.

But there's a problem: we aren't going to do that until 2013.
AR5, the fifth assessment report is presumably due in 2013 or thereabouts and that's the first time that the SRES models will be looked at again. Now I don't know about you but I don't think that's all that acceptable. We are (depending upon which side of the argument you are on) either facing the greatest threat to the health of the planet or we're about to spend trillions upon trillions of dollars on fixing something that doesn't actually need fixing.

Quite.

2 comments:

Tim Worstall said...

Careful there. 55 million years ago continents were in different places.

Tom said...

Quite. Also there's a key point that 'global warming' or 'climate change' is not the fact that the world exists at different temperatures from time to time (which is pretty bloody obvious) but that rate at which it changes. I reckon humanity would cope well with an 18C Arctic and fifty foot higher sea levels given, ooh, 20,000 years to get used to the idea (and likewise a -18C London and a Brighton seafront that reached Normandy). 20 years (or even 200) would be a stretch.

Given that, the task for the 'there's nothing to worry about' people is to provide credible evidence not that humanity isn't influencing the climate (it is, get used to it) but that the rate of change is within humanity's scope to cope with without economic and social catastrophe. Has anyone proved this?

The very model of a modern scientific man

Your humble Devil was thoroughly amused by Neil Ferguson's fall from grace, and is very pleased to have found the time to outline Fergus...