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Up in the air

Posted 10/01/2013 by sevans

Start talking about global warming or climate change – and the two are not the same – and there will usually be supporters and critics for every view, and at least as many viewpoints as the number of people involved in the discussion. 

Some people support the view that we humans are totally responsible for any changes, while others pin the blame on sunspots and the natural evolution of the Earth and the Solar system itself. And are the unusual weather conditions that have been, and are being, experienced around the globe actually due to increased levels of carbon dioxide or are there other factors in play? Everyone will have a view.

So the latest report from the UK Meteorological Office will just add more fuel to the debate, with its prediction that global temperatures over the next five years are likely to be lower than forecast a year ago.  Also the report estimates that by 2017, average temperatures will have remained about the same for the last two decades. So does this back up other research that suggests global warming is slowing down?

It certainly doesn’t suggest that the warming has stopped or indeed is reversing into global cooling. Global average temperature is expected to remain between 0.28°C and 0.59°C above the long-term average for the period 1971-2000 over the period 2013-2017, with values most likely to be about 0.43°C higher.

This new prediction has been the result of the first use of the Met Office’s latest experimental decadal prediction system HadGEM3, which includes a comprehensive set of improvements based on the latest scientific understanding. HadGEM3 has been tested and has more accurately reproduced temperature variations over the past few decades.

While the new system is said to offer a great improvement in its predictive capabilities, it agrees with earlier forecasts in that it predicts that we will continue to see near-record levels of global temperatures in the next few years. This means that temperatures will remain well above the long-term average and we will continue to see temperatures like those experienced over the period 2000-2009, which was the warmest decade since record began in 1850. 

The warmest year since 1850 was in 1998, when the temperature was 0.40°C above the long-term average. 

So what are your views on global warming and climate change?

Neil Eisberg - Editor

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