With the signs of climate change becoming harder and harder to ignore every day, we tend to think of it as a 21st century problem. However, in a new study, a team of researchers has revealed when and where the first real signs of global warming appeared – and it’s a much older problem than we generally think. “Remarkably our research shows that you could already see clear signs of global warming in the tropics by the 1960s but in parts of Australia, South East Asia and Africa it was visible as early as the 1940s,” said Dr Andrew King, lead author of the study.
By examining the average and extreme temperatures in the temperature record, the researchers were able to pinpoint the first shifts in global temperature. The shifts appeared earliest in the tropics because those areas generally experience a much narrower range of temperature, making any changes easier to detect. In the tropics, the average temperature began to change first, followed later by a shift in temperature extremes.
Closer to the north and south poles, the temperature began to shift much later, but by the 80s and 90s most regions of the world were showing clear signs of climate change. The one exception is on the east coast and in the central states of the US, which have not yet shown any obvious warming signals.
The research also gives insights into where the most intense impacts of heavy precipitation caused by climate change are likely to be felt in the future. “We expect the first heavy precipitation events with a clear global warming signal will appear during winters in Russia, Canada and northern Europe over the next 10-30 years,” said co-author Dr Ed Hawkins. “This is likely to bring pronounced precipitation events on top of the already existing trend towards increasingly wet winters in these regions.”