Met Office scale back global warming forecast

Tuesday 8 January 2013, 15:19

Paul Hudson Paul Hudson

A new global temperature forecast published by the Met Office, through to 2017, has scaled back projections of the amount of warming they expect compared with previous estimates.

The new projection can be seen below with more details on the Met Office website.



I have written several times in the last few years on the subject of Met Office global temperature predictions, and how they have been regularly too warm.

In the 12 years to 2011, 11 out of 12 forecasts were too high - and although all projections were within the stated margin of error, none were colder than expected.

One of their most high profile forecasts came in late 2009, coinciding with the Copenhagen climate conference.

It stated that half the years between 2010 and 2015 would be hotter than the hottest year on record, which I wrote about on my blog.

This already appears wide of the mark.

The latest projection seems to address this error with a prediction to 2017 in which temperatures rise 20% less than previously estimated.

In November 2009 I wrote about this levelling off in global temperatures, using research available at the time on the Met Office website.

In it, the Met Office explained that the levelling off of global temperatures that we were experiencing can be expected at time periods of a decade or less, because of the computer models internal climate variability.

But intriguingly, the research ruled out zero trends for time periods of 15 years or more.

The new projection, if correct, would mean there will have been little additional warming for two decades despite rising greenhouse gases.

It's bound to raise questions about the robustness and reliability of computer simulations that governments around the world are using in order to determine policies aimed at combating global warming.

The Met Office says natural cycles have caused the recent slowdown in warming, including perhaps changes in the suns activity, and ocean currents.

And mainstream climate scientists, who are in a majority, say that when the natural cooling factors change again, temperatures will be driven up further by greenhouse gases.

But climate sceptics, who have long argued that natural processes are either underestimated, or not properly understood, will not be surprised at this scaling back of expected warming.

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Comments

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  • rate this
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    Comment number 1.

    Hi Paul. I did say to you after 2006, when working for a Carbon Management company that I didn't believe man was causing the world to warm, but it was a natural variance that happens over 100's of years. The sun is the global warmer. C02 has increased greatly, but has there has been little change in the temperature of the earth. What happened to the hockey stick? Rupert Murdoch even says that the increase in C02 is being soaked up by the plant world, which is growing larger. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. It looks like the real winter is about to start. Best wishes for the New Year.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 2.

    The sun is the global warmer? Yet links to the sun and variations in the temperature are distinctly lacking. And it's not for want of looking.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 3.

    If you super impose the chart onto banking crisis it is the inverse could it be that's what causing the problem of global warming? People getting overheated with financial loss and the down turn is indicating a return to better times ahead with footsie hitting 6000 :)

  • rate this
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    Comment number 4.

    "The Met Office says natural cycles have caused the recent slowdown in warming, including perhaps changes in the suns activity, and ocean currents."

    Indeed, this same idea is put forward in a 2011 paper by Foster and Rahmstorf. The PDO has dived in recent years (associated with more La Ninas) and the Sun has dropped to the quietest it's been for 100 years.

    If AGW wasn't true we could have expected sharp cooling. But instead temperatures have risen slightly. The PDO and Sun are not permanent brakes on AGW though because they can't keep going lower for the whole 21st century. Once they bottom out the GHG warming continues again even if they remain low. When they start rising again we will enter a period of rapid warming where all three are causing warming simultaneously. Over the whole 21st century the only certainty is that the greenhouse gas forcing will dominate the Sun and the PDO as it is the only one certain to increase substantially whereas the other two cycle becoming largely zero-sum in the longterm.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 5.

    Ukip, I'd suggest that there is very likely a contribution from man to the climate equation. On balance, however, what that contribution is is not understood since the reality is that we don't know and cannot solve the equation.

    Paul, it should not be left to the climate sceptics to point out the fact that our understanding of the forces and feedbacks in our climate system is insufficient to make robust climate projections, nor should it be necessary for sceptics to bear the responsibility of uncovering the extent of uncertainties inherent in climate estimates promoted by the MO, IPCC etc.

    Moreover it is truly damning of the field of climatology that moderate (contra-alarmist) voices which find their computations more in accordance with the much less scary observed data are invariably described in the exclusive term "climate sceptics" rather than inclusive "climate scientist" terms, eg: Spencer, Lindzen, Christy and Curry, to name but a few. Given the politicised nature of climate science, while this is apparently inevitable, it is nevertheless an abhorrence.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 6.

    someone made a gif of the old projection
    http://i46.tinypic.com/123147s.gif

    (vanished without a trace, from the same web url, the new one appeared at)

    very bad sci comms.. Met Office
    http://i46.tinypic.com/123147s.gif

  • rate this
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    Comment number 7.

    It has to be said that the Met Office has managed to create a story due to poor handling of this release (they seem to mess this up consistently). The scientists behind the research seem to be able to explain the new research (on Tallblokes blog) far better then the actual release of info has.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 8.

    I suspect it will get down graded again in a few years, so that they don't lose too much face all in one go.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 9.

    I seem to remember headlines of no significant warming for the last 17 years during last year. If there is not going to be much if any warming until 2017 then that will be 20 years.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 10.

    I think quake nails this issue. Currently the climate system appears biased to mask anthropogenic warming. However there is still a underlying warming trend within stated uncertainty. It is only sense and science that the MO should re-evaluate the projections as more empirical evidence becomes available. After all the MO could not really have foreseen that the Sun would hit a century low and PDO is notoriously variable.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 11.

    mjmwhite wrote:

    "I seem to remember headlines of no significant warming for the last 17"

    That relates to scientific significance, ie, there is warming but over short time spans natural variability can mask trends. Climatologists tend to use 90% level for significance and a 30 year time frame. So it is somewhat less than 90% certain that the warming over the last couple of decades is man made.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 12.

    So far, most comentators have missed the most significant fact about the slow down in global warming. It is likely that natural cycles, such as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, are not only slowing down the warming at the moment but were speeding up the warming during the 1970s to 1990s. Since the IPCC climate models implicitly assumed all of that warming was anthropogenic that means they have been incorrectly calibrated with a built in bias. If this is the case temperature increases will be minimal for a couple few decades and then increase at a rate similar to that at the end of the 20th century.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 13.

    @Ron

    You've hit the nail right on the head there. You can't suddenly accept that there are new cooling factors in town, without also acknowledging their positive contributions....

    CAGW, is dead and buried.... It's the beginning of the end and the scents of panic, blood and urine are in the air

  • rate this
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    Comment number 14.

    Hey Paul - if "natural cycles" are now as big as greenhouse gases - then maybe natural cycles were as big as greenhouse gases in the past ?

    You know - when things were getting warmer? Is this possible - that some of the warming was caused by ... natural cycles?

  • rate this
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    Comment number 15.

    HeHe... So, Quake, Mate...... Have you always been so accepting of potentially negative feedbacks and forcings?

    Just curious......

    Forcings that are apparently capable of almost completely counterbalancing any CO2 warming from rapidly increasing.... Plus, as an ancillary question, I'm interested in your opinions on how these same forcings and feebacks might have contibuted to the late 20th Century warming?

    Sorry Mate, I just cant help myself ;-)

  • rate this
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    Comment number 16.

    Oopsies, that should say rapidly increasing levels and contibuted, should read contributed..... way too happy to type properly.....

  • rate this
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    Comment number 17.

    Re 7: "It has to be said that the Met Office has managed to create a story due to poor handling of this release (they seem to mess this up consistently). The scientists behind the research seem to be able to explain the new research (on Tallblokes blog) far better then the actual release of info has."

    This is because John, as you probably know, there is no Met Office/scientific conspiracy about AGW. If there was such a conspiracy then the conspirators would work hard to release everything in a water tight fashion. The main IPCC reports for example would be finalized before the release of the summaries for policy makers for example. Something that makes no material difference given the changes made, but it just *looks* bad and so can be exploited to that end.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 18.

    Re 15
    "Forcings that are apparently capable of almost completely counterbalancing any CO2 warming from rapidly increasing.... Plus, as an ancillary question, I'm interested in your opinions on how these same forcings and feebacks might have contibuted to the late 20th Century warming?"

    The Sun and PDO are quieter than they were in 1970 yet we are not back at 1970s temperatures or heading that way. The quiet Sun and negative PDO haven't even caused the heat gain in the oceans to stop.

    Something to bear in mind. As powerful as the Sun and PDO are presumed it seems a little CO2 rise over a couple of years is enough to cancel out their cooling effect.

    So does that make the Sun and PDO weak? Or does it mean CO2 is strong?

    Either way CO2 is going to continue rising and causing warming. The PDO and the Sun are limited in how low they can go.

    From 1970 to 2000 the trend in solar output and the PDO was negative. So it isn't clear either contributed any warming over the 1970-2000 period.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 19.

    @quake #18

    In what way is the sun having a cooling effect? Just interested, plus if you're using TSI there's not been much of change in this, so exactly how does that account for all of the missing heat from C02?

    With regard to OHC this has not increased at all since 2003. You can check this on the argo website, which makes the following statement Incorrect:

    "The quiet Sun and negative PDO haven't even caused the heat gain in the oceans to stop"

    I'll stop there as, I'm most interested in your answer to the first question ;-)

  • rate this
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    Comment number 20.

    The Sun is in it's most quiet 11 year cycle for 100 years. This follows the quietest solar minimum in 100 years.
    http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2009/01apr_deepsolarminimum/

    If the Sun has any significant effect on climate this should have had a cooling effect in recent years. The 11 year running mean of Sunspots is now far lower than 1970 yet there's no sign temperatures returning to 1970s levels let alone lower. Ocean heat content has continued upwards in all these years (see depth 0-2000m especially):
    http://www.nodc.noaa.gov/OC5/3M_HEAT_CONTENT/

 

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Hello, I’m Paul Hudson, weather presenter and climate correspondent for BBC Look North in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. 

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I worked as a forecaster with the Met Office for nearly 15 years locally and at the international unit, after graduating with first class honours in Geophysics and Planetary physics at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in 1992. I then joined the BBC in October 2007, where I divide my time between forecasting and reporting on stories about climate change and its implications for people's everyday lives.

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