That's because previous climate models have traditionally ignored natural variability in favor of global external factors such as human-made greenhouse gases, atmospheric aerosols, and solar radiation.
The Met Office's model, detailed in tomorrow's issue of the journal Science, includes real-time data on the present state of the atmosphere and oceans, Smith said.
It also incorporates natural changes in the ocean's circulation and large-scale ocean temperature anomalies like El Niño events—factors that have never before been included in climate change models.
"This is the first time that these two [groups of factors] have been combined to give a serious forecast for the coming decade," Smith said.
The Porter School's Price is among the experts praising the team's new approach.
"They are a lot more exact," Price said. "They are talking of specific years, and none of the other models talk of those specifics."
The model can show, for example, how the continued warming trend could produce more extreme weather in certain regions.
"Where you do have rain you'll have more moisture in the atmosphere, so you'll have more rainfall," Price said.
"And in areas where you have dry conditions, you'll have more evaporation from plants, so you'll have drought conditions," he added. "We already see it happening in the Mediterranean."
(Related: "Global Warming Models Underpredict Increase in Rainfall, Study Says" [May 31, 2007].)
Pinhas Alpert, head of the department of geophysics and planetary sciences at Tel Aviv University, recently returned from a series of meetings with the Met Office discussing the new model.
He said the British team's approach could influence the way other researchers produce climate change predictions.
"The running of a climate model can run into two main types of errors: inaccurately defined initial [atmospheric] conditions and the limitations of the model's design itself," Alpert said.
"The method [the Met Office team has] developed is a way to partially overcome these problems," he continued.
"They use recent data about atmospheric conditions [that are] considered a very accurate way of representing the initial conditions."
Free Email News Updates
Sign up for our Inside National Geographic newsletter. Every two weeks we'll send you our top stories and pictures (see sample).
SOURCES AND RELATED WEB SITES