“We hope it’s not the right answer” — Climate Models Are Running Red Hot, And Scientists Don’t Know Why

“We got some really strange results.”

By Eric Roston
Bloomberg (2/3/20)

There are dozens of climate models, and for decades they’ve agreed on what it would take to heat the planet by about 3° Celsius. It’s an outcome that would be disastrous—flooded cities, agricultural failures, deadly heat—but there’s been a grim steadiness in the consensus among these complicated climate simulations.

Then last year, unnoticed in plain view, some of the models started running very hot. The scientists who hone these systems used the same assumptions about greenhouse-gas emissions as before and came back with far worse outcomes. Some produced projections in excess of 5°C, a nightmare scenario.

As many as a fifth of new results published in the last year have come in with anomalously high climate sensitivity. There are dozens still left to report, and their results will determine whether these grim forecasts are outliers or significant findings.

The scientists involved couldn’t agree on why—or if the results should be trusted. Climatologists began “talking to each other like, ‘What’d you get?’, ‘What’d you get?’” said Andrew Gettelman, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, which builds a high-profile climate model.

“The question is whether they’ve overshot,” said Mark Zelinka, staff scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. …

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Australian Bushfire Totals For December 2019

  • 1 Billion: Animals killed with more than 100 threatened species at risk from habitat destruction.


  • 400 Million: Tons of CO2 released (equivalent to more than 70 percent of Austrlia’s total 2018 emissions).


  • 26 Million: Acres burned across six states.


  • 420,000: Fires that raged across country in December 201; by January their smoke had circled the earth.

(Source: The Nation 2/10/20 cover.)