Bloom closure

climatechangeadmin | 13:36 UK time, Wednesday, 31 March 2010

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Thank you for your support for Bloom and the Bloom blog over the last few years. We conduct an ongoing review of the content on bbc.co.uk to ensure we are serving audiences as effectively as possible, and as part of this process the decision has been taken to close Bloom.

This means that you will still be able to find the website and blog on bbc.co.uk, but that both will be labelled as archived content and will no longer be updated.

We will now focus our attention on developing better ways, utilising new web opportunities, to engage more people with issues and concerns around environmental change.

While we appreciate that this decision may disappoint you, we hope you will continue to enjoy bbc.co.uk. Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience caused. The page offered below is an aggregation of content related to climate change from across the BBC site.


www.bbc.co.uk/climatechange

Barbecue summer? Newsnight turns up the heat on man from the Met Office

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Richard Cable | 10:36 UK time, Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Comments (148)

Viewers of Newsnight on Tuesday evening will have enjoyed the spectacle of Nick Robinson gently roasting Ewen McCullum, Chief Meteorologist at the Met Office, over his organisation's prediction earlier this year that we were 'odds-on for a barbecue summer'.

But as cool drizzle descended across the UK, Mr McCullum resolutely refused to engage in the spirit of playful chiding. 'When you're forecasting so far ahead you have to base the forecast in probabilistic terms and quite frankly I don't think the media grasped that. It tends to be very deterministic so clearly the barbecue summer and the heatwaves got the headlines,' he said.

Nick was having none of it. Producing the Met Office press release, he quoted the fateful headline 'The Coming Summer is Odds On for a Barbecue Summer', adding, 'there aren't many journalists who would have turned that into a headline that says, 'Barbecue Summer - 'Maybe, Says the Met Office.'

Quite. And this highlights the core problem with much of the debate around climate change. As many of the excellent and voluminous exchanges on Bloom blog comments will demonstrate, the devil with the science of anthropogenic global warming is in the detail - detail that is crucially lost when scientists and/or their media advisors cherrypick the tastiest findings of their research and turn it into exciting headlines.

The rationale is obvious and shares much with consumer product launches. We want people to sit up and pay attention to the stuff we've made and done, so we tease them in with a juicy tidbit. Problem is, the juicy tidbit is often the only part of the story that makes it into the public consciousness, and then only in a considerably fattened and jucified state. This doesn't matter if we're talking about a pair of trainers, but it is of considerable importance if it shapes the policies, via the electorate, that will determine the future of the planet.

An example? This is how a report entitled 'Changes in Continental Freshwater Discharge from 1948-2004' comes to be press released as 'Water Levels Dropping in Some Major Rivers as Global Climate Changes' before finally being transmogrified by the international press into 'Major rivers drying up'. As the Bloom post 'Major rivers aren't drying up (or how alarmism doesn't help)' demonstrates, the science by no means supports the sexy headline.

Some (climate) models aren't worth the flirt, new research shows

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Shanta Barley | 13:35 UK time, Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Comments (127)

Climate change scientists have models coming out of their ears. (Not the leggy variety, alas, but complex mathematical equations which try to project future temperature change.)

So how does a boffin decide which ones to use? Many scientists place their trust in models which accurately mimic past climate change, in the hope that they will continue to 'tell the truth' in the future.

But a new study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters shows that this trust could be misplaced. The ability of a model to faithfully simulate past climate change is 'no guarantee of future skill', according to research by Catherine Reifen and Ralf Toumi at Imperial College .

Reifen and Toumi played around with the models of temperature change in the 20th century. To their surprise, they found that models which painted a faithful picture of climate change between 1900 and 1919 failed miserably between 1920 and 1939. The same applied between 1901-1920 and 1921-1940, and so on up until 1999.

Why's that? Simply put, models aren't very good at multi-tasking. A model may be very good at simulating the effect of El Nino on temperatures in the tropics, but isn't as good at everything else. But because El Nino and other 'strengths' like sea-ice come and go, no single model can consistently hit the nail on the head all the time.

That's why it's important that we include as many models as possible in our climate change projections, the study concludes. 'We do not know which feedbacks will dominate in the future', warn Reifen and Toumi, 'and the inclusion of the largest possible number of models could increase the range of predictions.'

So where does this leave us? You'll be glad to hear that the IPCC hasn't fallen into the trap flagged up by this report: it gives equal weighting to all models.

Less pleasing is its own admission of fallibility on the subject of models. 'What does the accuracy of a climate model's simulation of past or contemporary climate say about the accuracy of its projections of climate change?' mulls the IPCC in its Fourth Assessment. 'This question is just beginning to be addressed...'

Follow up: 'Unpredictable weather: why the climate is not a model citizen'

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