Tuesday, December 7th 2010, 7:19 AM EST
IT IS a bitter irony that as governments met in Mexico at the UN climate change conference yesterday, the UK's overnight temperature hit -18°C.
And more seriously, the climatologists admitted that previous worst-case predictions of sea levels rising by 13 feet across the world by the end of the century were just plain wrong - and even a lesser six-foot rise was now very unlikely.
At the same time they also ruled out the famous Day After Tomorrow projection - named after the 2004 environmental disaster film - that the Gulf Stream could be "switched off", leaving Britain and Northern Europe facing another ice age.
Just last year it was discovered that predictions that the Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2032 were so bad they were simply laughable.
Professor Mark Maslin, an environmental scientist at University College London, said: "Yes, there have been bungles, but it is a bit like Ann Widdecombe or Wagner being voted out - the great British public enjoys the humiliation but it usually figures out what is right in the end."
Yesterday The Sun spoke to Professor Bob Watson, chief scientist at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, himself an atmospheric scientist.
He said: "We need to be very, very careful about worst-case scenarios. The big issue when you talk about sea level changes is what might happen to the Greenland ice sheet or the West Antarctica ice sheet - and there really is big uncertainty about how they will even melt.
"We don't understand the dynamics of whether it just melts from the top - or does it melt from the bottom as well?
"But we can be very sure about the middle-level projections of seas rising more than half a metre over a century, and they are already cause for concern. If you are an island state, or Bangladesh or the Pearl River in China, then seas rising half a metre in the next century along with storm surges is not going to be insignificant at all.
"I have always been cautious about these extremes which say, 'It could be two metres, it could be four metres.' The thing to get across here is that things do go up and down a little bit - but nothing has really changed.
"These small changes do not undermine the basic view that we've got a major problem on our hands."
Professor Watson added: "It is difficult to tell the British public that it is one of the three warmest years on record when it is so cold - when we have just had one of the coldest Novembers ever. But you have to point to regions across the world which have just experienced some of the warmest temperatures ever. People also ask me how can this be global warming when you get all this snow?
"Well, heavy snow falls are not inconsistent with a warmer world. The atmosphere actually holds more water vapour and when it does get below zero it can all fall out of the sky as snow."
Source Link: thesun.co.uk