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At The UK Hadley Centre, They Know Something Nobody Else Knows…

…or alternatively, somebody has just used giant amounts of computing power to provide the UK Government’s Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs ) with antiscientific numbers on alleged future climate “forecast”, “predictions” or “projections” (pick your preferred choice…).

What’s happening? Since last Sunday, there has been a curious slow-feeding of news about an upcoming “UK Climate Impact Projections” document prepared by the Met Office’s Hadley Centre for Defra, “which is trying to plan for future changes brought about by global warming“.

Even more curious is the fact that as of today neither the Hadley Centre’s website nor DEFRA’s make any mention of such document. Full results are expected by June 18, so we will have to rely on news reports in the meanwhile.

Google News shows articles from The Daily Telegraph, Sunday Times (and again), Sky News, Daily Mail, Southern Daily Echo, with mentions of 41C in London, vineyards all around, a Mediterranean climate in Devon and a list of expected temperatures at county level.

Since there is no original document to read, those news reports must have been based mostly on each other, and hopefully at least one on some sort of “hidden” press release. And in fact, there is at least one section that appears in most articles pretty much unchanged:

Some may question how the Met Office can make predictions a lifetime into the future, when it struggles to produce forecasts for the next few months. However, climate change impacts are predicted to be so strong that, over decades, they are easier to predict than short-term changes.

There are positive and negative aspects to the text above. Whoever wrote it, they had to face the fact that the time when multidecadal climate projections would be left unchallenged, has ended some time ago. Therefore they had to imagine what climate skeptics would question, and come up with some sort of an answer. Trouble is, the answer is no good at all.

  1. They are admitting that the state of the climate in the long term is uncertain
  2. There is a misuse of the word “predictions” (see below)
  3. The author tries to convey the idea that future climate is easier to forecast, the stronger the “climate change impacts”. But this means that not even the people at the Hadley Centre are confident in the projections computed in anything but the worst possible scenario (every other scenario having weaker climate change impacts, is by definition more of a struggle to predict)

Perhaps more importantly, the trouble with long-term climate predictions is not just due to their intrinsic temporal timeframe, spanning decades. Even admitting that as a possibilty (and I have my strong doubts about it), still the problem of how to go from planet-wide analyses to a regional level has not been solved. And by regions I am talking “continents”.

How did anybody at the Hadley Centre manage to compute anything meaningful at the level of Yorkshire or East Anglia? Is there anything they have not told us, a major breakthrough in climate science that will be revealed to the masses by Thursday next?

Or have they just computed and published figures that have no basis in Science?


Another antiscientific aspect is in the use of words. I am not talking about the journalists…those are forever going to mix up “prediction” and “projection”. What is wrong is when scientists, or in any case people that should know better, add to the confusion by mixing those words up.

Look at the “answer” text above (that we can assume having been written by somebody at the Hadley Centre or Defra, the only people with access to the original document): “impacts are PREDICTED“.

Sky’s weather presenter Lucy Verasamy says: “These PREDICTIONS“.

A Met Office spokesman says: “These FORECASTS“, “Our PREDICTIONS“.

Myles Allen, head of climate dynamics at Cambridge University, is quoted: “Cities in the Midlands and south, ARE GOING to start experiencing some increasingly uncomfortable summers.

There might be very few things I understand about climate, but one there is: whoever speaks of PREDICTIONS or FORECASTS concerning the climate many decades in the future, they have failed to understand an extremely important aspect of climatology.

0 replies on “At The UK Hadley Centre, They Know Something Nobody Else Knows…”

thank you LW.

I am sure at the Hadley Centre they’ll do the honorable thing now the CRU-gate has exploded, and present to the public anything and everything that could remotely be subject to FOI requests.

Or not.

Looks like I was right about the report, going by this new BBC article. Between 2 and 6 degrees hotter by 2080 just here in London…

“Using a range of online tools including a “weather generator”, people will be able to enter their postcodes and see projections of how conditions are likely to change within 25 sq km grid squares at different points in the future.” It will surely be refined down to street level eventually, and we’ll be looking at a sort of Google map of our (projected) future neighbourhoods. See, there’s my house – oh no, it’s now a malarial swamp fought over by hordes of crazed climate refugees and armies of displaced tropical wildlife. Typical…

A note of caution: “…some climate scientists have reservations about trying to project the future on such a detailed scale.” Well, yes. “But the idea of the impact assessment has been well received by environment groups.” Now there’s a surprise. “…the picture it paints is an alarming one,” WWF’s Keith Allott chips in, helpfully.

Note to self: must remember to get some komodo dragon repellent for the patio, some time before 2080.

It may just be my expatriate nostalgia, but isn’t there something charming and typically British about this stuff leaking from the Hadley Centre? While Americans like Hansen warn of death trains and dire retribution for deniers, the British, true to their reputation for being always ill-prepared, but somehow muddling through, are being told to start planning the layout of their tropical gardens. I foresee letters to the Times about the sighting of the first hummingbird of the spring, exotic accented experts on Gardener’s Question Time with tips on pinching out your papayas, and advice columns on how to get the komodo dragons out of the rockery.

“How did anybody at the Hadley Centre manage to compute anything meaningful at the level of Yorkshire or East Anglia?”

Not only that. Here’s a reused and recycled BBC story from 2005 with scientists telling us just what sort of wildlife we’ll have in London and what trees we can expect to have in our neighbourhoods! Amazing.

The report end up with: “Have you noticed climate change affecting your garden? Send us your views.”

Re this new paper, what are the odds that it will assert that the effects of climate change will be far worse than previously thought?

Excellent work. We’ve already seen articles based on a press release preceding the publication of a scientific paper. This seems to be case of articles based on leaks about a forthcoming press release – a sort of leaky scoop, as it were.

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