A new study suggests scientists have missed a huge opportunity to measure the impact of climate change by studying what the climate looks like.
The study, published online Feb. 21 in the journal Nature, looks at how climate models can be more accurate in measuring the effects of climate changes.
“The climate models used by climate scientists to forecast future climates are not necessarily accurate in the same way that they predict future changes in human behaviour,” the study’s lead author, Michael Mann, a climate researcher at Penn State University, said in a statement.
Mann and his colleagues focused on two models of the Earth, one called the GISS model and the other known as the Hadley Centre model.
They found they could make more accurate forecasts of how climate would change, but that climate models don’t always predict how that will change, and they didn’t always give the best predictions.
Mann’s team then compared how these models worked against each other.
The two models had different predictions of how the Earth’s climate would evolve, but the models were equally accurate at predicting the effects, and the two models were also comparable at predicting how the planet would behave in response to climate change.
“Our results suggest that climate model predictions can be far more accurate than those of climate models that have been used to assess the extent of climate variability, and that models that are not accurately calibrated are likely to underestimate the true contribution of climate to human-induced climate change,” Mann said.
The paper’s authors point out that there are a lot of models of Earth out there, and many of them are accurate.
The scientists said that their findings suggest it’s not just about climate models, but about how climate changes over time.
“This paper provides compelling evidence that climate change models can and do underestimate the degree of warming, but they cannot predict how it will change over time,” Mann added.
In other words, if you want to know how the world will look in 10,000 years, you should be better off looking at how Earth changes over the last 10,200 years.
“Climate models can provide accurate predictions of the future climate, but we need to look beyond climate models,” Mann concluded.