July 9, 2011

The UK Met office finally acknowledges the sun's input to our climate

Of course, that acknowledgment comes in the 28th paragraph in this 39 paragraph long article. From the Financial Times:
So, will it rain tomorrow?
Noon on Thursday June 9 in the Met Office operations room in Exeter. From desk to ceiling, brightly coloured computer screens show past weather and future predictions. Showers speckle a rainfall radar map of the British Isles. A temperature chart shows tongues of warm orange air sticking into a pool of cool blue over the North Atlantic.

In the middle sits Martin Young, the chief forecaster, facing a dilemma about the weather three days ahead. He has known since the beginning of the week that an Atlantic depression was likely to reach Britain at the weekend, but now, with millions of people making plans, he must issue more specific guidance about when and where the rain is going to fall on Sunday.
And their primary tools are large computer models running on large computers:
The first key ingredient is the fundamental physics of the atmosphere and how it interacts with oceans and land masses to produce weather. This is encapsulated in increasingly sophisticated models, as computing power grows. The �33m Met Office supercomputer � a twinned IBM Power 6 machine installed in 2009 and about to be upgraded � can carry out trillions of calculations a second. It sits in two huge halls, shrouded by what look like plastic shower curtains. These are intended not to preserve the modesty of the energy-guzzling machine but to reduce the need to cool in the immediate vicinity.
And short-term forecasting has gotten quite good:
For Young�s boss, chief meteorologist Ewen �McCallum, today�s uncertainty about what will happen in three days� time illustrates the improvement in forecasting over the past generation. When he joined the Met Office 37 years ago, forecasters frequently faced similar or worse uncertainty about what would happen the next day.

�A four-day forecast today is about as accurate as a one-day forecast was when I started,� says McCallum, in an accent as Scottish as his name. �Then, we had no operational access to weather satellites, no radar and very slow computers.�
But long-term forecasting is a joke:
Until March last year, the Met Office stuck its neck further out by issuing seasonal forecasts. It stopped after public ridicule following the notorious �barbecue summer� forecast for the damp summer of 2009 and the failure to predict the cold winter of 2009/10.
And finally, we get this little gem:
�We now believe that [the solar cycle] accounts for 50 per cent of the variability from year to year,� says Scaife. With solar physicists predicting a long-term reduction in the intensity of the solar cycle � and possibly its complete disappearance for a few decades, as happened during the so-called Maunder Minimum from 1645 to 1715 � this could be an ominous signal for icy winters ahead, despite global warming.
And this little tid-bit to remind us why the Met Office is under scrutiny:
However, some of the recent antagonism is linked to the Met Office�s deserved reputation as a champion of research into climate change � and its scientists� unrepentant calls for urgent action against man-made global warming.
The sun is not going to go away and we can measure the effects over the next few years. What is rediculous is that this is only coming out now and the "increasingly sophisticated models" have no input for the variability of the sun. Hat tip to Anthony for the link. Posted by DaveH at July 9, 2011 3:06 PM