National Physical Laboratory

Seeking the TRUTHS about climate change

Further Information

Recorded: 19 April 2011

Speaker: Dr Nigel Fox, NPL

Related: TRUTHS Research

More: Resolving uncertainty in climate change data, Nigel Fox

The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) concludes that recent decades have revealed hallmarks of anthropogenic climate change.

However the mix of natural variability and anthropogenic effects on decadal timescales is far from fully understood or measured, requiring significant improvements in accuracy.

Unequivocal attribution is fundamental to our ability to reliably predict impact and the development of appropriate mitigation/adaptation strategies. The enormous cost implications of policy decisions based on forecasted impacts demands that the science community rise to the challenge and deliver the necessary information with sufficient confidence in the shortest possible time.

The uncertainty in climate prediction lies in the complexity of the models, our inadequate understanding of the Earth system, its feedback mechanisms and the relatively poor quality of available data against which to test predictions. The global nature of this data requires observations from Space that not only have sufficient sensitivity but that can also be relied upon over decadal time scales.

The only robust means of meeting the exacting needs of climate and also the operational needs of the Earth Observation (EO) community as a whole is to ensure that all EO data is unequivocally traceable to SI units with a robust estimate of uncertainty. However, with uncertainty requirements close to those only achievable with primary standards at National Metrology Institutes (NMI) the time has come to take the 'NPL into orbit' to establish and disseminate SI traceability in space.

Last Updated: 3 May 2012
Created: 21 Apr 2011


Please note that the information will not be divulged to third parties, or used without your permission