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Skeptic win: UK Met Office quietly drops prediction by 20%, hopes no one notices

Joint Post: Jo Nova and James Doogue

The UK Met Office are completely impartial about global warming, and delighted that things are not going to warm as fast as they thought. So to draw attention to the good news they waited to release it on the … quietest possible news-day of the year. Oh. But remembering that they are public servants, they had to settle for the second quietest, and release it on the day before Christmas instead.

These are the people who said the science was settled, and the deniers were wrong, except that it wasn’t and they weren’t.

Unfortunately for the Met boys, the skeptics noticed (h/t Tallbloke and Richard Smith), and now, not only do they have to handle the heat of that partial reversal , now they also have to admit the cheap PR trick backfired — they were caught in a cowardly attempt to hide the news. Busted.  See Bob Tisdale here for very nice graphs.

Graph from The Australian. (Don’t blame me for the decadel’s – sic)

This has been picked up now by Daily Mail, GWPF, Delingpole, The National Post (Canada) and this weekend, The Australian.

Daily Mail

 “To put it mildly, it is a matter of enormous public interest that the Met Office has revised its predictions of global warming, whispering that new data suggest there will be none for the next five years. After all, the projection implies that by 2017, despite a colossal increase in carbon emissions, there will have been no rise in the planet’s surface temperature for almost two decades.  Why, then, did the Met Office choose to sneak out this intriguing information on Christmas Eve, knowing there would be no newspapers the next day?

The Australian

Climate results validate sceptics

Graham Lloyd,

“If the latest Met Office prediction is correct, and it accords far more closely with the observed data than previous predictions, then it will prove to be a lesson in humility,” said David Whitehouse (of the Global Warming Policy Foundation) .

“It will show that the previous predictions that were given so confidently as advice to the UK government and so unquestioningly accepted by the media, were wrong, and that the so-called sceptics who were derided for questioning them were actually on the right track.”

The National Post (Canada) compares it to the sea-change that hit economic theories in the 1970’s

“It’s like Keynesian economic models in the 1970s that kept predicting high inflation would bring down unemployment,” Prof. McKitrick said. “Eventually they were so far off reality that it was no longer a case of trying to fine tune bits that didn’t fit, economists had to admit the underlying theory was wrong and start over.”

Bjorn Lomborg talks of “humility”

“This does not mean that there is no man-made global warming,” said Bjorn Lomborg, a Danish academic and author of The Skeptical Environmentalist. “But it does mean that we perhaps should not be quite as scared as some people might have been from the mid ’70s to about 2000, when temperatures rose dramatically, because they were probably at least partially rising dramatically because of natural variation, just like they are now stalling because of natural variation.”

He called the revised prediction “a return to the humility that we probably should have had right from the start,” and a reminder that the climate is harder to predict than scientists once “naively” thought.[ The National Post]

h/t Gary Mount.

Does that mean Lomborg won’t call us “deniers” now?

Just how flat is that graph?

The UK Met Office has revised its global temperature predictions as a result of a new version of its climate model and climate simulations using it. (http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/research/climate/seasonal-to-decadal/long-range/decadal-fc) It now believes that global temperatures  for the period 1950 t0 2017 will most likely be 0.43 deg C above the 1971 -2000 average, with an error of +/- 0.15 deg C. This will be achieved if the global average temperature remains the same as it is now. In reality this is a forecast of no increase in global temperatures above current levels, and for the 20 years to 2017. The average global temperature increase for the period 1950 – 2017 according to the UK Met office will therefore be just 0.12 deg C per Decade or 1.2 deg C per century with no indication that there is an increase in the warming rate.

Graham Lloyd The Australian

For the sceptical, the Met Office’s near-term predictions are coming home to roost. In 2007, it predicted that by 2014 the global average temperature was expected to have risen by 0.3C compared with 2004, and that half of the years after 2009 were predicted to be hotter than the current record hot year in 1998.

“Given that we have data for three of the five years of that period, and all show no departure from a constant temperature when analysed statistically, this is a prediction that will probably be totally wrong,” Whitehouse said.

“In any case, it is completely at odds with the new forecast.”


The Met Office excuse: but we can do long term predictions

Responding to media reports, the Met Office said “small year-to-year fluctuations such as those we are seeing in the shorter five-year predictions are expected due to natural variability in the climate system, and have no sustained impact on the long-term warming.”

Sorry boys. It won’t wash. Of course, we agree, natural variability could be countering the effect of CO2, but that’s not what you said in 2007 when you were calling us “deniers”. No one at the Met Office added the caveat that we might not have to build the sea-walls or wind farms for ten years, because temperatures might stay the same. No one at the Met Office said (publicly): the skeptics have a point, our models are as good as rune stones at Blackjack. Don’t panic yet!

Instead they said: “The science is settled”. “The models are accurate”. Which we now know wasn’t true. And that’s what matters about this episode, not the 0.02C, and not the failed predictions. What really hurts is that their PR has been so misleading. They can’t escape by acknowledging “genuine gaps in understanding” about “complex climate systems” — not when skeptics have been saying those exact things for two decades and the Met Office has just called them names.


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