Met Office in the Media: 11 October 2011

There has been continued interest in the research from the Met Office with  Imperial College London and the University of Oxford, that shows that low UV output from the sun can contribute to an increased risk of  cold winters over parts of the northern hemisphere, such as recently seen in the UK. Michael Hanlon of the Daily Mail posted an fascinating blog article on Mini ice-age or global warming: why can’t they make their minds up?. Elsewhere Jonathan Leake from the Sunday Times has clarified his article on this science in which he said:

Thanks to those who have commented on this article. However, there appears to be a common misunderstanding. This article is not about anthropogenic climate change. The phenomena mentioned in this article are natural and separate from climate change. They operate in parallel to climate change, in parallel to each other but, of course, each on very different time scales.
La Nina, for example, is really about weather. It’s part of a relatively short term natural cycle operating over periods of a few years. 
It’s just one of many factors which together mean that weather is constantly showing a high level of variability. In other words, getting a cold winter or two does not tell us anything about climate change. It just tells us that weather changes a lot – which we already know.
Similarly, the research in Nature Geoscience about the changes in solar radiation, is also nothing to do with climate change. It’s an entirely separate effect happening in parallel. Scientists think its part of a 3-400 year cycle of changes in UV radiation. There’s a good article here
and the original is here.
It’s interesting to wonder if it will mitigate or amplify the effects of greenhouse gas emissions but I suspect no-one really knows yet.
The key point is that short term changes in the weather and long term changes in the climate are both driven by a complex mix of variables. Working out the most likely future trends is hard and takes long-term dedicated science. Reducing it all to an argument to undermine climate change misses the real point which is that we should be trying to use the best science to assess just how much of a problem all these effects really present to an increasingly crowded and interconnected world.
The science suggesting that the Earth faces significant warming remains very strong. If you disagree then you need good science to back your case. These other phenomena (La Nina, UV radiation etc) are simply not relevant.
Jonathan Leake


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1 Response to Met Office in the Media: 11 October 2011

  1. Alec Rawls says:

    Jonathan Leake claims that the only effect of the increased solar UV that goes with an increase in solar activity is to effect a redistribution of heat, resulting in regional temperature effects but not global temperature effects. Sorry, but this is absolutely not known. The fact that there is a redistributional effect does not preclude there also being global effects, and there is very good reason to think that there WILL be global effects.

    The redistribution of heat comes through a change in atmospheric circulation patterns where the meanders in the jet stream become much larger. The jet streams form where cold and warm air are colliding below, which is what creates storms, and cloudiness, so a more widely meandering jet stream could easily mean more net cloud formation. Clouds reflect more of the sun’s energy than they trap, so this would have a global temperature effect, with less solar energy being received by the climate system.

    Current climate models don’t capture any of this. Cloud modeling is still the weakest link. What is in the models about clouds is all via parameterization. That is, the cloud effects are being ASSUMED. If they don’t produce global temperature effects it is not a product of model but an assumption of the model.

    I have a recent post on the likely global temperature effects of UV shift here:

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