Saturday, March 14, 2009

Met Office Tells Scientists to Cool It

Vicky Pope, head of climate change advice at the Met Office Hadley Centre, says scientists should be careful not to exaggerate the evidence for climate change:

“The reality is that extreme events arise when natural variations in the weather and climate combine with long-term climate change. This message is more difficult to get heard. Scientists and journalists need to find ways to help to make this clear without the wider audience switching off.”

She cites the fuss over dwindling Arctic sea ice cover (or extent) as "just one example" of going beyond what the data really say:

“Recent headlines have proclaimed that Arctic summer sea ice has decreased so much in the past few years that it has reached a tipping point and will disappear very quickly. The truth is that there is little evidence to support this. Indeed, the record-breaking losses in the past couple of years could easily be due to natural fluctuations in the weather, with summer sea ice increasing again over the next few years. This diverts attention from the real, longer-term issues. For example, recent results from the Met Office do show that there is a detectable human impact in the long-term decline in sea ice over the past 30 years, and all the evidence points to a complete loss of summer sea ice much later this century.”

So the Hadley Centre recognizes that some of the claims made in the name of client science by scientists are exaggerated! She ends her Guardian piece with this:

"Overplaying natural variations in the weather as climate change is just as much a distortion of the science as underplaying them to claim that climate change has stopped or is not happening."

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