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It is well known that ice shelves on the Antarctic Peninsula have collapsed on several occasions in the last couple of decades, that ice shelves in West Antarctica are thinning rapidly, and that the large outlet glaciers that drain the West Antarctic ice sheet (WAIS) are accelerating. The rapid drainage of the WAIS into the ocean is a major contributor to sea level rise (around 10% of the total, at the moment).
All of these observations match the response, predicted in the late 1970s by glaciologist John Mercer, of the Antarctic to anthropogenic global warming. As such, they are frequently taken as harbingers of greater future sea level rise to come. Are they?
Two papers published this week in Nature Geoscience provide new information that helps to address this question. One of the studies (led by me) says “probably”, while another (Abram et al.) gives a more definitive “yes”. More »
Guest post by Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, Francisco Doblas-Reyes, Sybren Drijfhout and Ed Hawkins
Climate information for the future is usually presented in the form of scenarios: plausible and consistent descriptions of future climate without probability information. This suffices for many purposes, but for the near term, say up to 2050, scenarios of emissions of greenhouse gases do not diverge much and we could work towards climate forecasts: calibrated probability distributions of the climate in the future.
This would be a logical extension of the weather, seasonal and decadal forecasts in existence or being developed (Palmer, BAMS, 2008). In these fields a fundamental forecast property is reliability: when the forecast probability of rain tomorrow is 60%, it should rain on 60% of all days with such a forecast.
This is routinely checked: before a new model version is introduced a period in the past is re-forecast and it is verified that this indeed holds. In seasonal forecasting a reliable forecast is often constructed on the basis of a multi-model ensemble, as forecast systems tend to be overconfident (they underestimate the actual uncertainties).
T.N. Palmer, F.J. Doblas-Reyes, A. Weisheimer, and M.J. Rodwell, "Toward Seamless Prediction: Calibration of Climate Change Projections Using Seasonal Forecasts", Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, vol. 89, pp. 459-470, 2008. http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/BAMS-89-4-459
Some of my friends have made a film, Thin Ice, which tells the story of CO2 and climate from the standpoint of the climate scientists who are out there in the trenches trying to figure out what is going on. I have a small role in the film myself, and I am sure RealClimate readers will recognize many more familiar faces. One of the many things I like about this film is that it puts a human face on climate science. It’s harder to demonize people when you feel you know them, and realize that in the end they’re not that different from you and your neighbors (except maybe they know more about CO2 and climate than some others you might meet).
A description of the project, including trailers and clips can be found here . The film will be available during Earth Week for free streaming. Or even better, you can arrange a free screening for your group (details for obtaining a free Earth Week download for screening are available here ). Read below the fold for more information
This year, the Geological Society of America is rolling out their SWITCH Energy Awareness campaign . The centerpiece of the campaign is a documentary film, SWITCH, which purports to be about the need for a transformation in the world’s energy systems. Recently, I attended the Chicago premier of the film, presented as part of the Environmental Film Series of the Lutheran School of Theology. I had high hopes for this film. They were disappointed. Given the mismatch between what the movie promises and what it delivers, it would be more aptly titled, “BAIT AND SWITCH.”
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