Sunday, June 26, 2011

Are inaccurate climate models making us feel too secure?

Science 2.0 raises an issue that doesn't get enough attention -- critiques of models often assume that the modelers are overstating risks, when they might well be downplaying them: The common refrain when climate science detractors point out the flaws in numerical models is that, if no one is sure of the accuracy, the risks are being exaggerated. It could be the opposite. Numerical models could be giving us a false sense of security, a belief that we have plenty of time to fix pollution issues.

Writing in Nature Geoscience, Paul Valdes from the University of Bristol School of Geographical Sciences, discusses four examples of abrupt climate change 'tipping points' over the last 55.8 million years that have been reconstructed from palaeoclimate data and states that the level of inaccuracy could be too comforting.

Two complex climate models used in the assessments of future climate change did not adequately simulate the climate configuration conditions before the onset of change while two other models needed an unrealistically strong push (10X) to produce a change similar to that observed in records of past climate, meaning the models were overestimating the real-world conditions needed to make the historical effects appear - it could actually be much easier.

…What is the solution? It takes a lot of processing horsepower to do huge simulations, so often we have to rely on boundary conditions and, as he puts it, " we need to challenge the palaeodata and continue to improve our knowledge of past forcing factors and the ensuing climate response….

A diorama of one of the Battles of Pydna (in ancient Macedon), shot by Spads, who has released it into the public domain

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh Noo!! It's worse than we thought!!! LOL