Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bad weather

The UK is notoriously unprepared for wintry conditions. Yesterday the Neue Zuricher Zeitung was poking fun at the British transport secretary who in a parliamentary debate stated that winter tyres would damage the roads and wear out too quickly. Likewise, the problems at Heathrow airport were attributed to British lack of investment in snow ploughs, etc.
However, countries with more experience and investment were not immune to these problems, as witnessed in Germany where trains and cars were stuck in the snow, and Frankfurt airport closed for hours. Meanwhile, the British Transport secretary has asked his chief scientific advisor if more harsh winters are to be expected. How should he reply?


Anonymous said...

It is a fact that climate scienteists spoke about years without winters, about plants that cannot survive without cold winters.

I don't understand in any way why you climate scientists are now surprised about the "stupid" questions from lay men.

Do we expect a report about all the animals that have died because of the early snow this year? Or about those who invaded our countries after a shift of the climate zones and now have died?

We stupid lay people have been very heavily insulted by climate scientists when we questioned those silly things.

Best regards


Anonymous said...

Very true comment. Climate scientists where too optimistic on how lay-men understood climate science.

It is a hard message to sell that the earth is warming while there are people trapped in snowdrifts, but: It is a warning from climate scientists as well that the weather with a rise in temperatures will become more irradical, with extremes both in summer (heatwaves) and in winter (cold spells). This needs to be stressed.

Anyways it is again the problem of bringing a balanced story out to people. Balanced stories just never make the front pages.

Martin Heimann said...

Interesting how the "global warming policy foundation", ("one of the world’s leading advocates for climate objectivity...") is now taking advantage of the cold spell and is poking at the Met Office. They try to undermine its reputation claiming that they predicted a mild winter. Even if the winter has just started, the jury is already out - and of course this implies that their climate simulations must be flawed, too. Interesting lesson how advocacy groups operate.

sHx said...

"We stupid lay people have been very heavily insulted by climate scientists when we questioned those silly things.

Best regards



so true... so ture. yknow?

I taught may be God doesnt exist. becouse if he did he make me smart too. So I ask priest. Father does god exist. Father say, has you read bible? I say noph. Then he says how do you know god doesn exist. Dont be stopid. Go back to mowing gras.

Your climate scintheist is not like my priest. So ture.


@ReinerGrundmann said...

The question I put at the end of my post was serious. What should the chief science advisor tell the transport minister in reply to his question?

eduardo said...


I would recommend to increase the redundancy and resilience of transport systems, independently of climate projections

@ReinerGrundmann said...

Eduardo, the argument in the UK is that action needs to be justified in terms of cost benefit analysis. If there is a low likelihood of more winters like this (i.e. heavy snow fall for a few days) then investment in infrastructure would not be justified. Hence the request for scientific assessment.

Ben said...

Hasn't the Met office given it's scientific assessment already over the past months and years?

Their scientific assessment was that cold and snowy winters will become rare. Should we blame them for being wrong? Maybe, because other meteorologists (with much less computer power and resources) apparently predicted the cold weather. Maybe not, because these meteorologists haven't proved that they can consistently predict the weather with more accuracy.

But we can certainly blame the Met Office and its institutions for its arrogance when claiming to be able to predict weather over longer periods (aka climate).

eduardo said...

@ 7
I would say that regional decadal climate predictions are very uncertain. It is not only the effect of the external forcing, say CO2 and others, but also the internal chaotic variations, which can be large at regional scales. To say that we will have less (or more) snow in the next 20 years in the UK would be highly speculative.
Other than that, I think that transport mayhem experienced this and last winter are rather caused by other factors. The fact that air traffic capacity seems to be at the limit (is that true?) and the system is based on 2 or 3 hubs makes it very vulnerable. Any external disturbance pushes the system out of whack. Therefore my layperson advice: increase resilience and redundancy. decrease dependency on air traffic