Sunday, January 16, 2011

New schedule seen to improve/strengthen impacts portion of IPCC report

Eli Kintish in Science magazine: Climate scientists hope to improve the most contentious section of the next report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) by changing how they deal with uncertain data, connect with basic science, and include data from sources that aren't peer reviewed. Meeting this week in Tsukuba, Japan, the scientists hope the changes will make their portion of the three-part 2013 IPCC report even more robust.

Speaking by phone from Japan, ecologist Chris Field, of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Palo Alto, California, says that past criticism of the panel on impacts and adaptation strategies, which he chairs, has only strengthened efforts to improve its next report. "If anything, the criticism made authors more willing to be involved," says Field. "The challenges the IPCC faced pulled out the best scientists in the field." …

…Among the tweaks to IPCC's procedures that the scientists are learning about in the 4-day session, which wraps up tomorrow, are new guidelines for dealing with uncertainty, the use of literature not published in journals, and the confidentiality of drafts. The first two are areas in which a high-level independent review of IPCC has called for improvements.

A significant problem facing IPCC is how to make the literature reviewed in the impacts working group reflect the climate scenarios forecasted and reviewed in the first working group's report. (The information is generated by "IPCC runs" on supercomputers of different models given what amounts to identical starting conditions.) In a perfect world, the studies on impacts would reflect the possible scenarios produced by the first group. But in the past there hasn't been enough time to do impacts studies on literature new enough to be included in the IPCC report. So scientists have used future warming scenarios from literature that's older, creating a mismatch in the final IPCC report….

Unsnarling the pendulum, shot by haitham alfalah, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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