Gallery: New Research Shows that Climate Change May be More Severe than...

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New research shows that climate change may be happening faster than we predicted. A method of assessing the top 16 climate change models developed by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research shows that the models that predict a higher rise in temperature may be the more accurate scenarios.

Cloud formations are at the center of the quest to know precisely how severe climate change is going to be. Current models can only predict climate change with over a 4 degree uncertainty, showing that temperatures will rise anywhere between 3.6 degrees to 8.1 degrees Fahrenheit. Though 4 degrees may seem small to most of us, it has tremendous implications in terms of sea level rise, heat waves and extreme weather. Cloud formations are extremely difficult to measure and predict, but new research shows that relative humidity is linked to clouds, and therefore they offer a viable tool to predict climate change more accurately.

Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado and his colleague John Fasullo have found that you can use relative humidity as an indirect representation of clouds. With this discovery, they assessed the top 16 climate change models to see which ones reflect the current temperature of the earth. The ones they found to be the closest to current conditions are those that predicted a rise in temperatures on the high side of the predicted 4 degree range.

While this new research adds to the bulwark of climate change science, it’s not a game changer, according to Raymond Pierrehumbert, the Louis Block Professor in geophysical science at the University of Chicago. He points out that the correlation between water vapor and clouds was drawn from short-term fluctuations. And researchers cannot be certain that the results would be the same due to significant increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which is really what is causing climate change.

What we do know for sure, says Dr. Pierrehumbert, is that the less carbon dioxide we emit, the less maximum climate change we’ll experience. And this new research shows that if we don’t start changing our behavior now, climate change could be even more severe than we’ve predicted.

Via The New York Times


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