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Data analysis by climate expert Professor David Karoly shows concerning trend.
Australia appears to be already experiencing the worst-case climate scenarios that were projected to occur eight years from now.
It’s a sobering finding, revealed by world-renowned climate scientist David Karoly’s analysis of how closely projections released in 2015 by the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO align to actual temperatures and rainfall experienced by 12 major Australian cities, including the capitals.
He presented his data titled “Evaluation of near-term climate change projections for selected Australian cities using recent observations” at the recent Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society conference.
“Unfortunately, things like temperature extremes – days over 35 and 40 degrees Celsius – and decline in rainfall in southern Australia… were tracking at or above what was projected for the 2030s,” Professor Karoly tells Cosmos.
Cities further north were also seen to experience climate changes consistent with 2030 projections, though not worst-case rainfall scenarios.
So, how do these climate models project possible futures?
Climate models simulate plausible climate futures.
They are the most accurate and useful tools available to anticipate and estimate the Earth’s future climate, and extend the calculations used by meteorologists to predict short-term weather. In this way, climate projections look beyond this week, this month and even this year.
Models use complex data inputs and mathematical calculations to simulate possible climate outcomes. To give a sense of the effort to ensure accuracy, hundreds of scientists and substantial supporting resources are required to build a model.
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Not all models are the same, but each use mathematical equations to represent complex processes and interactions in the atmosphere, oceans and land surface.
Basically, lots of time, money and brain power go towards making these incredibly useful models.
“There are multiple representations of those ‘plausible futures’, and typically the projections don’t look at just one – they look at range of plausible futures,” Karoly says.
“Coordinated experiments have been run with these global models to evaluate their performance and to allow their results to be combined for future climate projections.”
To determine their precision, climate models are run over historical periods to see how closely their simulations align with past weather records.
The closer the alignment, the greater confidence in the model’s ability to simulate future scenarios.
Climate futures are uncertain, and scientists are quick to emphasise there are many variables that will influence the climate. But these uncertainties are small, and have become smaller and smaller as the reliability of climate models has improved.
Once models are verified, they’re then used to project forward scenarios.
In simple terms, this process is repeated by climate scientists around the world to inform decision-makers, businesses and individuals on what changes might look like years into the future.
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“In the most recent decade, it’s hitting us faster and harder.”
Farmers are one group particularly interested in the changing climate.
They rely on having accurate data to inform their operations – when and what to plant – based on expected temperature, rainfall, storm activity and more.
And it was discussions with farmers that prompted Karoly to look back on how accurate the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO’s past climate projections were.
These farmers and others who rely on accurate weather had noticed their climate expectations hadn’t married up with reality.
“I thought I’d better evaluate,” Karoly says.
“For many people, they’ve been noticing climate and weather changing around them.”
Karoly’s findings are troubling: already, 12 Australian cities are experiencing climate conditions that were projected to occur a decade from now. While specific to these locations, the findings could be considered broad indicators for the rest of the nation.
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“Many businesses and many people who are looking at climate impacts tend to look at the mid-range projections for the future,” Karoly says.
“What I’ve been finding is that the mid-range climate projections for 2030 already significantly underestimate the magnitude of the likely climate impacts in terms of extreme temperatures.”
“These sorts of events that were projected to be much worse in the 2030s, and 2050s, are happening already. What we’re experiencing in some sense, for many parts of Australia, is the weather of the 2030s, or the worst case of the 2030s, now.”
One thing that Karoly did not review was extreme short-term rainfall, making it difficult to consider recent events like the recent triple La Nina, which incidentally saw 2022 become the wettest Sydney year on record.
Karoly says his results may mean experts need to revise their use of climate models. At the very least, he says, worst-case scenarios using existing simulations need to be given greater consideration.
“Maybe the issue is we haven’t actually got high resolution, or high enough resolution to represent some important [climate] processes,” he says.
“It’s potentially a risk with using coarser models… using a simple downscaling approach. We’re usually tracking within the full range, but experiencing the worst case.”
This article was originally published on Cosmos Magazine and was written by Matthew Agius. Matthew Agius is a science writer for Cosmos Magazine.
Australia is already ahead of The Planet in terms of warming – Australia at 1.47 degrees warming since 1910 when national records began and The Planet at 1.2 degrees warming above pre-industrialisation level.
Australia is a land of drought and flooding rain, so nothing to worry about in the slightest.
Just keep carrying on as before, we’ll tame the next National Bushfire Apocalypse and next Eastern Australia Flood Disaster just like we did the last one, yeah. Oh wait…
50 years ago humankind walked upon the moon. Humans have learned nothing regarding the likes of this planet’s oncoming near death.
Australia has just had a record grain harvest , what a disaster. The is record coral growth , what a disaster, the coldest start to Summer , what disaster for the weather alarmists, I suggest looking at reality and not models.
Anton, you right, lets look at the reality of the National Bushfire Apocalypse 2019/20, the Eastern Australia Flood Disaster 2022, the state of the GBR and get the party started to celebrate wonderful affairs.
There is a fool in every room.
Hypothetically speaking Anton ..to easy to punch
Alarmist information into a computer
The outcomes certainly suits the narrative.. !!
Barrow, nice to hear from you again, we’ve missed your insights on affairs.
Denial and Alarmist for you is the already lived reality for others.
Don’t you worry about any old computer and its outcomes, all you needs do is just get the your trusty hose ready for the next Bushfire Apocalypse and get your row boat ready for the next Australian Flood Disaster.
A record grain harvest where? Some areas had their entire crop wiped out by floods. You don’t think there is anything unusual about this summer in the southern part of the continent. Not interested in the number of times you hear unprecedented – to the extent that it’s becoming an oxymoron?
The smartest scientists in the world are telling us we need to take action but “she’ll be right” geniuses like you know better and stuff the planet and future generations if you’re wrong.
The Tonga volcano apparently turned the Southern Annular Mode hard positive in the middle of this La Nina, so the bad weather is hardly surprising. There are a few papers published on it, and quite a few on going studies. Disappointing that some people have used it to push an unrelated agenda.
Too many heads in the sand. The brain drain is not comforting.
Stefanie, the empty space in their heads need filling with something – sand to the rescue, or Not.