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Think it was a hot summer? Wait 30 years and think again

Tuesday, Sep 13, 2011 - 03:27

Sept. 13 - This year's northern summer has been the fourth hottest on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In just a few decades however, these same temperatures might be considered the norm as global warming pushes the planet into what climatologists at Stanford University are calling a ''new heat regime''. Ben Gruber reports.

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In New York City, extreme temperatures were the norm this past summer. People flocked to local pools for relief from the above average heat... On the streets people complained to one another that the weather was just "unbearable". According to climate models programmed by Noah Diffenbaugh, a climate expert at Stanford University, hot summers are not only here to stay, they're going to get worse. Climate models are essentially complex computer programmes designed to factor historical environmental data to predict future warming trends. They provide insights into how much greenhouse gas, such as CO2 and methane will be in the atmosphere in the years to come and how temperatures will be affected. Ben Gruber reports. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PROFESSOR NOAH DIFFENBAUGH, CLIMATE RESEARCHER, STANFORD UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "What we find is that , in fact, large areas of the United States, large areas of Europe, large areas of China, and very large areas of the tropics experience this transition to a heat regime where it's so hot year after year that even the coolest summers that occur are still hotter than what have been the hottest summers." The change is already occurring and Diffenbaugh says in just 30 years what we consider as "normal" summer temperatures now will be a thing of the past. Climate change prediction models normally look at long time periods, attempting to predict how global warming will affect the climate hundreds of years down the road. Diffenbaugh wanted to run models with shorter time scales. He says the results surprised him. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PROFESSOR NOAH DIFFENBAUGH, CLIMATE RESEARCHER, STANFORD UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "The emergence of this heat regime is so fast, so soon in the future that there is an aspect that is really committed." By committed, Diffenbaugh means that even if greenhouse gas emission drastically dropped today, humans have produced enough Co2 to alter our climate system permanently. He says that even his conservative models paint a bleak picture. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PROFESSOR NOAH DIFFENBAUGH, CLIMATE RESEARCHER, STANFORD UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "We don't know exactly what the emissions will be in the future so we have picked a scenario that is in the middle of the plausible range and in fact we have picked a scenario that falls below what has occurred over the last decade. And so I consider this to be a conservative because the pace of industrialisation, the pace of increasing carbon intensity in developing economies which is China and India has actually been more rapid the scenario that we have used." Brian Soden, a professor of Meteorology at the University of Miami, has conducted a great deal of climate research himself and believes Noah Diffenbaugh's findings present an accurate view of the future. And, he says that with a warmer climate, will come the extreme weather events associated with it. Floods, droughts and wildfires says Soden, will become more commonplace as temperatures rise. (SOUNDBITE) (English) BRIAN SODEN, PROFESSOR OF METEOROLOGY, UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI, SAYING: "What our grandchildren's climate will be like won't be made by them; they will be made by us. There is so much of a lag time and an inertia within a climate system that the decisions we make today about choices of energy consumption and green house gas emissions, they will dictate what the climate will be for the next generation to come." Diffenbaugh and Soden say that while climate models can't be 100 percent accurate, there no doubt that progressively warmer weather is coming. Ben Gruber, Reuters

Think it was a hot summer? Wait 30 years and think again

Tuesday, Sep 13, 2011 - 03:27

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