Modelling specific regional climate changes

I wrote yesterday about how difficult climate modelling is – in fact it is so difficult that you might well wonder why we try to do it. I think that climate modelling is an almost impossible task; even if you actually manage to start to get your model right, you will discover that there is a new factor that your algorithm does not cover or covers wrongly.  

So, while modelling what may happen in the future as to the climate is virtually impossible in my view (that will not stop people from trying to do it) modelling what changes are dangerous is much easier. This is where climate modelling comes into is own as having very real value for humanity.

Climate models can give us a very real projection as to what various degrees of warming of average surface temperatures or sea temperatures will mean. At one level we can more or less know that the ice will melt and there will be more water in the seas and as the seas warm we will experience more flooding. At one time it was thought that a four degree warming would cause a five or six metre mean sea level rise; now we think, with greater accuracy that the rise will probably be no more than two metres.

This kind of prognosis has value. It is not certain in its accuracy but it provides a working guide for risk analysis and risk mitigation. Ultimately a guide may be all that we have but a guide gives us something to work with; guesswork and doom mongering does not have credibility.

I wrote yesterday that predicting general trends in climate is hard to do, but it is not the hardest thing to do. It is much harder to predict specific climate changes in specific areas over a specific time frame.

This impossibly hard thing is being attempted in the United Kingdom, much to my surprise.  The UK Climate Impacts Programme (UKCIP)  are going to try to predict what will happen for each 25 square kilometre sector of the United Kingdom, using massive computers.

My view is that this becomes fiction; projecting climate so specifically is incredible. Those that accept climate change will look at these projections as hard evidence of what is to come – whereas they are simply concepts of likelihood with different degrees of probability based on what may be a flawed methodology.

Those climate change deniers will have to do no more than quote the lengthy exceptions and caveats that these projections will come with, and use those caveats as evidence of the unreliability of climate change theory; this sophistry will be credible, because people tend to associate scientific uncertainty with being plain wrong.

I suggest that all the computing power and investment in this project might have been better invested in some causal climate change research. Fortune telling has always been a game with low probability of success requiring large amounts of investment as you cross her palms with silver.

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