In September 2018, as Hurricane Florence was heading towards a landfall in North Carolina, a team of researchers announced that the storm would be 80 kilometers larger and drop 50% more rainfall due to “human induced climate change.” In a study published last week the researchers shared that their initial numbers were wildly off base.
The new study explained: “The quantitative aspects of our forecasted attribution statements fall outside broad confidence intervals of our hindcasted statements and are quite different from the hindcasted best estimates.” In plain English that means: “We were really, really wrong.”
Scott - Johnson - Editor - Climate - Feedback
Scott Johnson, editor of Climate Feedback, explains the significance of a mistake in the research team’s initial analysis and the consequence of using methods that generated huge error bars: “Rather than something like 50 percent of the rainfall being the result of a warmer world, the models actually show about five percent (and that’s ±5%). And rather than a storm that is 80 kilometers wider because of climate change, it was about nine kilometers (±6km) wider.” Johnson says the rush to get the initial analysis out likely contributed to the flawed numbers. He questioned whether speed and scientific accuracy are worth trading off: “Whether there’s sufficient value in getting a less reliable answer faster is another question.”
Both studies of Hurricane Florence reflect a recently developed approach that seeks to quantify the influence of human-caused climate change on individual weather events. Such “event attribution” studies typically use models to produce results under two different conditions: the real world and a counterfactual world in which climate change is not present. The differences between the two worlds are used to make statements about the connection of climate change and the specific event.
Studies - Media - Consequence - Commonplace
Such studies are increasingly easy to do, extremely media friendly and as a consequence, have now become commonplace. The...
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