The 2003 Outlier

Dang but it’s hard to keep up with the climate blogging thing without David Appell for inspiration. But one must soldier on, most recently with a new paper from Martin Beniston in the latest Geophysical Research Letters on the summer of 2003 in Europe.

Model results suggest that under enhanced atmospheric greenhouse-gas concentrations, summer temperatures are likely to increase by over 4?C on average, with a corresponding increase in the frequency of severe heat waves. Statistical features of the 2003 heat wave for the Swiss site of Basel are investigated and compared to both past, 20th century events and possible future extreme temperatures based on model simulations of climatic change. For many purposes, the 2003 event can be used as an analog of future summers in coming decades in climate impacts and policy studies.

2003 is “likely to have been the warmest summer since 1540”, a year rivers ran dry and crops wilted.

It would be easy for the skeptics to taunt Beniston for the usual sin of linking every extreme event with global warming, were it not for the statistics underpinning his rather ominous paper title: “The 2003 heat wave in Europe: A shape of things to come?”

Quite simply, as I mentioned last month in talking about a similar paper in Nature by Sch?r et al, the summer of 2003 was an extreme outlier in the context of the normal (gaussian) distribution of temperatures for the period for which we have a record. So either the climate is slipping into a new regime, for which the old normal distribution doesn’t apply, or you lot in Europe were one unlucky bunch of sumbitches last summer, eh?

In other words, to borrow a phrase I’ve been slammed elsewhere for using in connection with climate change, what happened in Europe in the summer of 2003 is “not inconsistent with” the greenhouse climate change hypothesis.

One Comment

  1. It’s important to avoid giving the contrascience skeptics any ammunition to work with [my motto: climate skeptics are like ants finding a crumb and declaring it a picnic].

    That said, when something like the 2003 heat wave in Europe is claimed to be unusual, then you’d better have the data to back it up. I haven’t read the article yet, but this paper (hopefully) provides that data to defeat another skeptic argument.

    Soon enough, even the ordinary person will have read enough information to force our leaders to find some political will.


Comments are closed.