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« BBC links to BH | Main | The failure of the climate models »

Met Office concedes the error

Over the last day or so, Julia Slingo has sent a polite, but somewhat evasive response to Nic Lewis regarding his critique of the UKCP09 model. It can be seen here.

Nic Lewis's reaction is here. I don't think he is very impressed. The key exchange relates to the following paragraph in Slingo's paper:

Having said that, it is true that the relationship between historical aerosol forcing and equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS) depicted in your Figure B1 is based only on the PPE. But we disagree with your assertion that the results from HadCM3 are fundamentally biased. It is certainly the case that versions of HadCM3 with low climate sensitivity and strongly negative aerosol forcing are incompatible with the broad range of observational constraints. But the key point is that the relationship between aerosol forcing and ECS is an emergent property of the detailed physical processes sampled in the PPE simulations.

To which Nic's response is this:

This is a key paragraph, which in effect concedes that my main criticism is valid.
I don't dispute the point that in HadCM3 – and very possibly other models – the relationship between aerosol forcing and ECS is an emergent property. That is precisely why HadCM3 is not suitable for a PPE study in which, supposedly, "uncertainty in the response of the climate system to CO2 forcing is comprehensively sampled".

In essence, Slingo seems to be admitting that the low climate sensitivity, low aerosol forcing scenario that the observations suggest exist in reality cannot be simulated by HadCM3, but effectively handwaves this problem away. As Nic puts it:


In effect, her view seems to be that it doesn't matter what the observations imply, because the models rule out the possibility of low aerosol forcing, low ECS combinations. I am reminded of a famous line by Bertold Brecht to the effect of: "The people have failed the government. The government must elect the new people." But the Met Office can no more replace the real climate system with one that agrees with the models than a communist government could replace the people with one that satisfied its ideology.

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Reader Comments (71)

The founder of quantum theory, Max Planck wrote:

A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.

I am sure that there must be many students of climatology and related subjects who read blogs like this one and Watts Up With That, etc. even if they don't let their lecturers know - after all they have to pass their exams and get good references!
Eventually some of those students will reach positions in climatology and perhaps they will make their reputations by correcting the errors of the present generation of researchers, or model makers as they should more properly be called.

Sep 26, 2013 at 10:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

Beneath all the babblegaff she is stating that aerosols must be keeping the planet cool which is an idea consistent with Hansens hand-waving. Therefore the Met do not favour the unphysical missing heat in the ocean notion nor the idea that they may have (heaven forfend) underestimated natural variability.

In effect thats the only argument that can allow them to keep up the alarmism and the huge uncertainty in aerosol effects allows them to pull any trick they like with it.

Of course their assumption about natural variability being in decline is still inherent in the models and disputable. But the average politician doesn't have the knowledge to understand that all they have done is decide the facts and fitted the data around them based mostly on their pessimistic gut feeling and the money that flows into their coffers from continual alarmism. To hell with the rest of us shivering in winter because of having to cut our fuel usage due to this pessimism; thats the big implication that she doesn't mention.

It is high time someone influential challenged the doom-mongers on why they must always presume that the putative warming must be masked by a putative cooling of unknown origin, rather than just not being particularly significant in the first place, which is what Occams razor, the basic no-net-feedback physics and all available observations in fact suggest. But I suspect they would just continue to cite all the other pessimistic, gravy-train riders around the world who agreed with them. Tony Abbots solution seem the only one left: Get rid of them; root and branch!

Sep 26, 2013 at 10:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

How dare Slingo, a public servant paid for by the taxpayers, declare that no further dialogue take place with a credible scientist just because he's pointed out errors in their work, other than through "peer reviewed papers" when Slingo knows that the peer review process in climate science has been so corrupted that any papers sceptical of the alarmist meme are unlikely to get published.

That's bordering on the Nazi's tactic of censorship. The arrogant woman should be grateful that someone is pointing out her errors, but I have said numerous times now it's long past time she and several other senior managers at the Met Office should be put out to pasture, without the usual bung of taxpayers money.

Sep 26, 2013 at 11:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn B

This all reflects the Met Office mantra that Richard Betts must recite 100 times before he goes to sleep. "CO2 is a greenhouse gas. It is not a matter of if it causes warming but how much warming"

This was the same approach adopted by Chucklebrother on Newsnight.

Whereas the question really is how little, if any, warming is caused by CO2.

And let us not forget that Nic Lewis is doing, presumably on his own time and without remuneration, the job that we pay the Met Office to do. This really is a David and Goliath moment and we all owe Nic an enormous vote of thanks and every encouragement to continue the fight for science.

Sep 26, 2013 at 11:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterDolphinhead

"Indeed one could argue that models provide a more physically consistent representation of the real world than spatially sparse and poorly sampled observational data."

Discriminating between models has always been a problem, It is a commonplace that models with radically different architectures (i.e. instantiating completely different physical representations) can fit observed data equally well. And of course part of the problem relates to the quality of the data available. But surely you need some way of testing whether the pecular assertion quoted above is true or not. So how do you do that? Or does nobody care?

Sep 26, 2013 at 12:07 PM | Unregistered Commenteralan kennedy

Curve-fitting and judicious extrapolation, where applicable, perform very much better than the MET Office models, probably over all time scales.

But of course an empirical curve alone implies very little understanding of the phenomenon.

Well then, how much reliable and reproducible scientific understanding do the computer models actually embody?

Can anyone point to a list of elementary assumptions that on the one hand warmists and informed sceptics alike would not (for the time being) dispute and on the other hand the contentious assumptions which keep the two groups apart?

It might be helpful to bring this out and separate it from the computer science implementation, which comprises grid generation and adaption, initial and boundary conditions, solution algorithm, stability considerations and numerical damping, error evaluation and control ...

It seems possible that this sort of analysis might serve to take discussions beyond personal attacks. But if the MET Office continues to regard its innermost procedures as state military secrets there will be no progress. It started as a branch of the Royal Air Force. It seems to act as if it still is.

By the way, is there any place in the modern world for incorrigible optimism?

Sep 26, 2013 at 12:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterMark Well

'We have a conflict between the Material World and the Orthodoxy, so we must deny the Material World and devote ourselves to defending the Word of the Orthodoxy, even to waging war on those who do not believe."
Nah, nothing 'religious' here.

Sep 26, 2013 at 12:44 PM | Unregistered Commentertadchem

"Isn't climate science extraordinary? In any other science we would expect outrage, apologies, intervention by authority, discipline. One way or another heads would roll.

"But in climate science what happens is nothing. You can make the most egregious of errors and provided it tends to increase alarm everyone else holds their nose and looks the other way."

It is a natural outgrowth of the progressive logic that created the precautionary principle. If you promote the creation of scary stories, and their propogation via the popular media, you get more and more of them, with the purveyors becoming public celebrities. And the progressives in the background benefit by gaining more and more control of the populace.

Sep 26, 2013 at 1:23 PM | Unregistered Commenterrxc

I would remind Julia Slingo that the problems facing the BBC over Jimmy Saville are not so much as a result of those terrible things happening but that a great many senior people were made aware of them and didn’t stop him. Punishment for those failures include recent departures of people who never had any involvement in the original offences but decided to cover up past failures. The route by which those senior people found out was not considered as important as the fact that they were informed.

So she’d be on dodgy ground ignoring new information because it is not peer reviewed. Since I expect Nic Lewis and others to publish widely on the internet, nobody will be able to claim that they didn’t know.

Sep 26, 2013 at 2:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Not too sure if this could be considered even remotely on-topic, but…

As for the oft mentioned rise in sea levels being not just from melting ice but also because of the water expanding as the oceans warm: while I do not have the volume correction factor for water, the VCF (ISTM Tables 54A & B) for oils indicates that a rise of about 0.2 of a degree is required to expand the liquid by about 1/10,000 (1.0001). While I know that the ocean is a large volume of water, one has to appreciate that, no matter what the volume, it is the ratio that we are talking about; increasing the volume of any sphere, no matter how big, by 1/10,000th might make a huge difference in volumetric quantity, but will not make a noticeable difference to its radius. As the temperature rise being seriously(?!) talked about is in hundredths of a degree, then we are talking about 1/100,000ths (1.00001) volumetric increase: i.e. should the Earth actually be a globe of water, for every 1 hundredth of a degree increase in temperature, the sea level would increase by 53mm (~2 inches). That does make it sound a bit scary.

However, as the oceans are just a thin film over the surface of the Earth, it is certain that this figure will be considerably less – most probably so small as to be utterly negligible (may those with more relevant data enlighten us?). Does not seem so scary, now.

Sep 26, 2013 at 3:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

Kudos to Nic Lewis from me too. He is approaching McIntyrian levels of analysis and persistence. Writes a good letter too. Well done Sir, history will treat you well.

Isn't it glaringly obvious how much more all round impressive the top sceptics are than anyone on the other side of the debate.

Are there any admirable "warmists"? Our own (!) RichardB handles himself very well, just lets himself down on the analytical front!

Sep 26, 2013 at 3:21 PM | Registered CommenterSimonW

The root of the current very serious, worldwide social malady is just this:

Historical truths - from observation, meditation, contemplation and prayer - were closer to reality than any of the UN's IPCC reports.

Mankind is totally dependent on the Creator and Sustainer of Life at the core of the Sun.

FEAR of nuclear annihilation by the release of energy in cores of uranium atoms to destroy Hiroshima on 6 Aug 1945 convinced world leaders to hide the Sun's source of energy.

Sir Fred Hoyle published two papers in 1946 that became the foundation of the Standard Solar Model for the composition and source of energy in stars.

Read for yourself the background of SSM dogma on pages 153-154 of Hoyle's autobiography: <I>Home Is Where The Wind Blows.</I>

The Sun's pulsar core is the Creator and Sustainer of every atom and life in the Solar System.

The only solution to our sick society: Acceptance of total dependence on the Creator and Sustainer of Life.

Deflating dangerously over-inflated egos of world leaders and science advisors is the biggest obstacle to society's recovery.

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
Former NASA Principal
Investigator for Apollo

Sep 26, 2013 at 3:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterOliver K. Manuel

As I've been saying, climate science is pre-copernican, well entrenched and propped up by a state church, their software models are based on the dogma of a fixed earth and produce epicyclic orbits...evidence counter to the theologically-accepted consensus is not well-received.

Sep 26, 2013 at 4:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterJEM


There is something of a difference between epicycles and climate models. Epicycles did describe planetary motion. They did in fact fit in with observation. OK, descrepancies were dealt with by adding more epicycles. They were rejected because a much more economical and satisfactory view of planetary motion was developed which was explanatory rather than purely descriptive.

I've never seen software models of climate as anything more than a propaganda tool. You can't even argue that they describe climate in any useful way. They've been so important to the cause that were they abandoned a major pillar of support would go.

The reason people are tying themselves up in knots is that so much depends on it all being accepted, but reality is being willful.

Sep 26, 2013 at 5:27 PM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

I've never seen software models of climate as anything more than a propaganda tool. You can't even argue that they describe climate in any useful way. ....
Sep 26, 2013 at 5:27 PM cosmic

Cosmic: Please see the Met Office publication "Warming. A Guide to Climate Change". It explains the value of climate models...

"Are computer models reliable?

Yes. Computer models are an essential
tool in understanding how the climate will
respond to changes in greenhouse gas
concentrations, and other external effects,
such as solar output and volcanoes.

Computer models are the only reliable
way to predict changes in climate. Their
reliability is tested by seeing if they are able
to reproduce the past climate, which gives
scientists confidence that they can also
predict the future."

Sep 26, 2013 at 5:46 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Martin A,

Enthusiasts of the prophesies of Nostradamus are very good at deciphering his rhymes to predict things which have already happened. Predicting the future from the works of this great seer is a work in progress and it turns out, is something of a moving target. There are such attempts but when they fail they are quietly forgotten, and a new set of attempts is produced.

Sep 26, 2013 at 6:09 PM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

Well, yes, the Met Office is better at predicting the past with its models than it is in predicting the future.

But as Steve McIntyre has pointed out, they are also rather crap at predicting the past if you go back further than the 1960's.

Sep 26, 2013 at 7:15 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

cosmic - the point is that the pre-Copernicans, like the current crop of 'climate scientists', had a limited set of observation tools; they built models that fit their incomplete observations and their preconceived biases (Christian and environmental), declared the issue closed, at which point the entrenched church and state powers began to lock up those who attempted to challenge the orthodoxy.

Sep 26, 2013 at 8:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterJEM

Apologies if I'm wrong, but wasn't it the deceitful Slingo who told Steve McIntyre he'd be thrown off the IPCC review panel if he kept asking for access to data? What a lovely scientist.

Sep 26, 2013 at 9:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterIanH


The point I'm making was that epicycles had more than a nodding acquaintance with observation and were of some predictive value - as opposed to none. The fixing of calendars and predicting of eclipses was important in those days.

I accept what you say about the interpretation of reality being forced to fit the constraints of religious orthodoxy, and reality rudely bursting in on the party as an unwelcome guest, despite the best efforts of the priesthood. The comparisons with the current day are compelling.

Sep 26, 2013 at 11:39 PM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

Fuel poverty is an emergent property of current climate modelling.

Sep 27, 2013 at 2:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrian H

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