BBC Horizon gives a one-sided explanation of temperature

I saw the Horizon programme last night on “What is One Degree?” Ben Miller returned to his physicist routes to explain why a small rise in global temperatures is significant. There was some interesting science, but it fell apart towards the end when it came to explaining how one degree is significant. Using shifts in a binomial distribution curve it was explained that

“You only have to move the average temperature up a bit for the number of stinking hot days to become much more frequent.”

What was not explained was the implication for the other end of the distribution. The number of extremely cold days will become much rarer. For Britain, where snow is fairly infrequent, it could easily become a thing of the past. The cold spell twelve months ago, and December being the coldest in the 352 years that the Central England Temperature Record has been in existence are simply not possible. Especially at the Met Office were repeating this forecast just twelve months ago.

Before you get all skeptical, there is something that salvages the global warming case. The scientific consensus has long stated that climate change will disrupt the planetary weather systems. Therefore, the distribution of temperature will not just have a peak that will shift to the right, the distribution will also broaden. It may broaden sufficiently that there could be more extreme cold weather than extreme hot weather events. Along with this there will be more extreme weather events like hurricanes, tornados, flooding and droughts.

The problem with this is that the prediction of more hurricanes has not occurred. The 2010 season was one of the quietest on record. The forecast drier climate in Queensland seems to have gone a bit adrift as well.

In analyzing our extremely varied climate, whether British or Global, one has to look for instances that contradict out hypotheses as well as confirming instances. Otherwise you get a distorted picture of what is actually happening, and an exaggerated view of the human influences.

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