The Conversation

Climate Models Appear to Be Failing (at Least For the Moment)

The fact that climate models are not accurately predicting climate trends is getting through to the media. Even the NY Times is taking note, however reluctantly.

The story that broke the logjam on this topic may be this one published in March by the Economist. It pointed out that "The mismatch between rising greenhouse-gas emissions and not-rising temperatures is among the biggest puzzles in climate science just now."

Tied to this is the mismatch between not-rising temperatures and the predictions of climate modes. The Economist attributes to Professor Ed Hawkins the observation that "surface temperatures since 2005 are already at the low end of the range of projections derived from 20 climate models." More precisely, the observed temperatures are about to drop out of the 95% confidence bounds predicted by the models.

There are various theories about why temperatures aren't keeping up with predictions, some of which are compatible with the IPCC consensus and some of which are not. But the key point is that, at this moment, the models are diverging from reality. Even the NY Times is reporting it, albeit on page D3:

The rise in the surface temperature of earth has been markedly slower over the last 15 years than in the 20 years before that...given how much is riding on the scientific forecast, the practitioners of climate science would like to understand exactly what is going on. They admit that they do not, even though some potential mechanisms of the slowdown have been suggested. The situation highlights important gaps in our knowledge of the climate system, some of which cannot be closed until we get better measurements from high in space and from deep in the ocean.

The Times points out the models could still turn out to be right in the long run. A plateau of a decade or two could be followed by a sudden spike of temperature which brings us right back in line with the model's predictions over a longer time scale. If that happens, the proponents of the IPCC consensus will surely say they told us so on the front page of the NY Times (and not on D3). But at the moment that is not where we are.


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