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Met Office: Science Or PR?

Andrew Montford, Bishop Hill

I was amused by this new paper out of the Met Office which describes a computer model study of the likelihood of future heatwaves. The title reads like something out of the Daily Mirror rather than a learned scientific paper:

Dramatically increasing chance of extremely hot summers since the 2003 European heatwave

The abstract that follows is equally odd. Take the first sentence:

Socio-economic stress from the unequivocal warming of the global climate system could be mostly felt by societies through weather and climate extremes.

Isn’t that a bizarre sentence? The abstract goes on to talk about “ominous” predictions of further heatwaves further suggesting an “I want headlines” approach to the writing of the paper rather than anything particularly scientific. Let us hope the same sentiment doesn’t apply to the study itself.

The lead author appears to be Greek, so we might charitably wonder if we have a language problem. However, you would have thought that the two British co-authors would have been able to help, and that a journal like Nature could afford to pay someone to resolve such problems.

The guts of the abstract it is as follows:

Here we investigate how the likelihood of having another extremely hot summer in one of the worst affected parts of Europe has changed ten years after the original study was published, given an observed summer temperature increase of 0.81 K since then. Our analysis benefits from the availability of new observations and data from several new models. Using a previously employed temperature threshold to define extremely hot summers, we find that events that would occur twice a century in the early 2000s are now expected to occur twice a decade. For the more extreme threshold observed in 2003, the return time reduces from thousands of years in the late twentieth century to about a hundred years in little over a decade.

So, if you believe a set of models that can’t reproduce surface temperatures, can’t do tropospheric temperatures, struggle with clouds, are useless with rainfall, can’t do convection and devoid of skill at subglobal scales, you might be convinced that heatwaves are about to get worse.

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