Government climate science versus reality – too much faith in models

Government weather and climate predictions have left the realm of reality and have become a political tool that leads to bad policy (see Obama’s Climate Action Plan is Clueless and Dangerous). The British Meteorological Office (know as the Met Office) serves as a case in point: they have been spectacularly wrong in their forecasts in 12 of the last 13 years.

Last year the Met Office touted a new weather-forecasting super-computer built at a cost of 41 million pounds sterling (approximately $65 million). The computer is more powerful than 100,000 standard PCs, is capable of 1,000 billion calculations every second, and uses 1.2 megawatts of energy to run – enough to power a small town. The head of the Met office claimed that this new computer “will enable the Met Office to deliver more accurate forecasts, from hours to a century ahead.”

Let’s see how the computer is doing so far.

On 23 March 2012, the computer produced a forecast for the next three months: “The forecast for average UK rainfall slightly favors drier-than-average conditions for April-May-June as a whole, and also slightly favors April being the driest of the 3 months. With this forecast, the water resources situation in southern, eastern and central England is likely to deteriorate further during the April-May-June period.”

I picked this spring forecast of 2012 as an illustration because I was in Wales and Cornwall in June, 2012, and personally witnessed how inaccurate the forecast was.

And here is what happened (links are to local newspaper accounts):

April:  The UK had the wettest April for 100 years with some areas seeing three times their usual average. Some 121.8mm of rain fell, beating the previous record of 120.3mm which was set in 2000.

May: First three weeks were abnormally cold (there were snowstorms), the last week was abnormally hot. (Summary)

June: Flooding, storms and persistent showers blighted the country putting June, 2012, in line to become one of the soggiest in 100 years.

 25 June: Spring is wettest in Britain for 250 years. June saw its fourth washout weekend and yet more downpours are forecast. The combined rainfall for April, May and June will break the record of 13.2in (336mm) set in 1782 and be the highest since records began in 1766.

This shows that super-computers and weather/climate models fail when the wrong assumptions are input: Garbage in-Garbage out. The new super-computer will, however, allow the Met Office to make their mistakes faster.

A recent article in The Spectator (a British publication, not the American Spectator), titled “Forecast failure:  how the Met Office lost touch with reality,” laments how “ideology has corrupted a valuable British institution.”

The Spectator notes “In September 2008, [the Met Office] forecast a trend of mild winters: the following winter turned out to be the coldest for a decade. Then its notorious promise of a ‘barbecue summer’ was followed by unrelenting rain. Last year, it forecast a ‘drier than average’ spring — before another historic deluge that was accompanied by the coldest temperatures for 50 years. Never has the Met Office had more scientists and computing power at its disposal — yet never has it seemed so baffled by the British weather.”

“But there is no paradox. It is precisely the power of this technology in harnessing climate scientists’ assumptions about global warming that has scuppered the Met Office’s predictions — and made it a propagandist for global warming alarmism…For some time, the Met Office’s longer range forecasts have served a political purpose. They tend to be issued just before the United Nations annual end-is-nigh summit in November, so they can have a powerful impact if they are sufficiently scary.”

The problem is not confined to the British Met Office, several agencies in the U.S. government have also succumbed to the lure of political ideology and have forsaken science, and their models, too, have been spectacularly wrong as noted by Dr. Roy Spencer here.  These models fail because they are based on the carbon dioxide hypothesis of anthropogenic global warming and “consensus.” As Dr. Judith Curry notes, “The lesson for climate scientists is that the consensus can be wrong, and many scientists will go along with it to avoid censure by their peers…scientists need to continually challenge their assumptions to avoid bias.”

See also: Carbon dioxide and the greenhouse effect

Copyrighted by Jonathan DuHamel. Reprint is permitted provided that credit of authorship is provided and linked back to the source.