Earth’s climate is starting to change faster, new research shows

Mar 18, 2015

Image courtesy of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

By Science Daily

An analysis of changes to the climate that occur over several decades suggests that these changes are happening faster than historical levels and are starting to speed up. The Earth is now entering a period of changing climate that will likely be faster than what’s occurred naturally over the last thousand years, according to a new paper in Nature Climate Change, committing people to live through and adapt to a warming world.

In this study, interdisciplinary scientist Steve Smith and colleagues at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory examined historical and projected changes over decades rather than centuries to determine the temperature trends that will be felt by humans alive today.

“We focused on changes over 40-year periods, which is similar to the lifetime of houses and human-built infrastructure such as buildings and roads,” said lead author Smith. “In the near term, we’re going to have to adapt to these changes.”

See CMIP run

Overall, the Earth is getting warmer due to increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that trap heat. But the rise is not smooth — temperatures bob up and down. Although natural changes in temperature have long been studied, less well-understood is how quickly temperatures changed in the past and will change in the future over time scales relevant to society, such as over a person’s lifetime. A better grasp of how fast the climate might change could help decision-makers better prepare for its impacts.

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29 comments on “Earth’s climate is starting to change faster, new research shows

  • These curves are wrong! I have been working on global temperature measurements and one of the biggest issues we have is that the rate of increase for the last 10 years in global temperature has been effectively close to zero at least in Western Hemisphere. Longer term the growth is significant. So if these curves purport to show the rate of change per decade, they are simply not correct.

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  • I suspect, the predictions into the future will become less reliable as they move forward from the present.
    There are simply too many feed-back effects, and relevant future political decisions, which are unknown.

    This in no way reduces the present need for urgent action.

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  • This should be no surprise. We know about the albedo effect. We have seen the strongest effects at the poles.

    Further CO2 emissions are cumulative. It would be astounding if there were NOT acceleration of change.

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  • I was listening to a lecture on CBC Ideas on the recent slowdown of warming. Apparently, the amount of heat was going up as expected, just that it was going into the ocean rather than the atmosphere.

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  • Hello David. I find what you say intriguing; could you elaborate please?

    I’m particularly interested in knowing at what stage/temperature deep ocean bed methane deposits will begin to rise to the surface; I’m informed that there’s rather a lot of it, it having been accumulating for quite a few billion years, and that its rise will be a significant tipping point, from which there is probably no return.

    But of course I could be wrong, but even if I am I think it’s worth erring on the side of caution and no longer splitting hairs; apart from anything else, that there methane pongs somewhat.

    Although on the positive side it will render the entire planet a no smoking area.

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  • Hi DavidPun

    These curves are wrong! I have been working on global temperature measurements and one of the biggest issues we have is that the rate of increase for the last 10 years in global temperature has been effectively close to zero at least in Western Hemisphere.

    A few things:
    I don’t know who or what your qualifications are. You could be a climate scientist or you could be some crank with a pocket calculator, so in future please link to relevant evidence, peer reviewed please.

    It’s called global warming because the temperature is taken as an average of the whole globe not just the Western Hemisphere. Ignoring half of the information strikes me as a little disingenuous.

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  • That’s right. The El Niño Southern Oscillation transfers heat between the atmosphere and oceans in a time-dependent direction, so surface temperatures will be misleadingly high in El Niño years but misleadingly low in La Niña years. If you place El Niño, La Niña and other years on separate graphs, they each show the same trend and that trend has not recently decelerated. What’s actually happened recently is we haven’t had many El Niño events. But any decent climate model appreciates that that will happen for a while sometimes. What’s more, any decent statistical treatment of climate data will take all of this into account.

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  • 11
    RandyPing says:

    Ha! Yes, then we all become gay secular Muslim socialist communist Nazi reptilian alien hybrids possessed by devils and LOLicorns.

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  • On the graph, what sort of assumptions are they making about extrapolating into the future? It obviously depends drastically on how well we curb emissions. I am hoping humanity will be like a boy who waits to the last minute to do his term essay, then puts on a full court press.

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  • Why might it fall?

    the presuming mankind will work to reduce emissions. There will still be the old ones in the atmosphere but fewer new ones.
    we have past peak oil. The price of fossil fuels will rise, so there will be less carbon burned.
    China is going green in a big way. No more coal plants. Economics are stalling more fossil fuel use. The cost of solar panels has halved in the last 5 years. I expect a chain reaction to speed the flip.
    Young people are on board for the necessary sacrifices to deal with climate change. They will be in charge later in the century.

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  • Well there you have it folks. Global warming refuted with one short wholly unsupported Internet comment. There are so many experts on comment boards!

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  • There are not so happy reasons why it may fall as well. Climate Change models predict colder than normal temps over the North Atlantic in the Winter. Take a look at this last Winter’s temp maps and you’ll see this actually happened. Enough surface ice in the area where the Gulf Stream stops flowing warm water North will greatly reduce the amount of evaporation in this area. This evaporation creates more saline, denser water, that then flows South at depth, at essentially the same volume as the Gulf Stream. (This is the NADC, the North Atlantic Deepwater Circulation.) All that water has to go somewhere right? Reducing Winter evaporation sufficiently may “shut off” this return flow, and end or greatly reduce the Gulf Stream. If this happens, average temps in “temperate” Europe could drop 10 degrees F. in less than a decade. December in southern Ireland, which now has palm trees, turns into something more like Canada. Warm water stays along the equator, more bigger hurricanes. Do a google search on the impact of Gulf Stream, and Climate Change’s impact on the Gulf Stream, to realize how quickly and radically things can change.

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  • As a layperson it’s difficult to understand why the rate of change is predicted to fall that much towards the end of the century.

    They’ve factored in a mass extinction event after a tipping point wipes our a third of humanity so our emissions drop as people die. The models warn of tipping points but you can’t talk about it because you will spook the sheeples.

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  • David, unless something other causes a mass extinction beforehand, one will certainly be triggered by the rise of deep ocean bed methane which, apart from anything else, will wipe out plant life.

    Further to which, once that rising starts it’ll be inexorable.

    All things being relative, sooner or later there’s going to be another mass extinction anyway, it’s just a pity that we’re contributing so eagerly towards making it sooner rather than later.

    Here endeth my whinge for the day.

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  • DavidPun Mar 18, 2015 at 2:19 pm

    the rate of increase for the last 10 years in global temperature has been effectively close to zero at least in Western Hemisphere.

    ????????? Since when were “global” temperatures in the “western hemisphere”?

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  • Meanwhile the heat keeps melting the ice!

    Antarctic ice shelf thinning speeds up

    Scientists have their best view yet of the status of Antarctica’s floating ice shelves and they find them to be thinning at an accelerating rate.

    Fernando Paolo and colleagues used 18 years of data from European radar satellites to compile their assessment.

    In the first half of that period, the total losses from these tongues of ice that jut out from the continent amounted to 25 cubic km per year.

    But by the second half, this had jumped to 310 cubic km per annum.

    “For the decade before 2003, ice-shelf volume for all Antarctica did not change much,” said Mr Paolo from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, US.

    “Since then, volume loss has been significant. The western ice shelves have been persistently thinning for two decades, and earlier gains in the eastern ice shelves ceased in the most recent decade,” he told BBC News.

    The satellite research is published in Science Magazine. It is a step up from previous studies, which provided only short snapshots of behaviour. Here, the team has combined the data from three successive orbiting altimeter missions operated by the European Space Agency (Esa).

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  • Meanwhile on the technical front of reducing energy consumption: –

    Graphene light bulb set for shops

    .A light bulb made from graphene – said by its UK developers to be the first commercially viable consumer product using the super-strong carbon – is to go on sale later this year.

    The dimmable LED bulb with a graphene-coated filament was designed at Manchester University, where the material was discovered in 2004.

    It is said to cut energy use by 10% and last longer owing to its conductivity.

    The National Graphene Institute at the university was opened this month.

    The light bulb was developed by a Canadian-financed company called Graphene Lighting – one of whose directors is Prof Colin Bailey, deputy vice chancellor at the University of Manchester.

    It is expected to be priced lower than current LED bulbs, which cost about £15 each.

    Prof Bailey said: “The graphene light bulb will use less energy. We expect it to last longer. The manufacturing costs are lower and it uses more and more sustainable components.”

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  • Meanwhile some positive news:-

    .The US has pledged to tackle climate change by cutting its carbon emissions 26-28% by 2025.

    It made the formal offer to the UN as a step towards a global deal in Paris in December.

    The EU has already promised to cut its emissions by a roughly similar proportion.

    Tuesday was the deadline for wealthy nations to make their offers – but some, such as Canada, have failed to submit in time.

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  • Also in terms of practical steps with technology:-

    .UN: New renewables broke through 100GW barrier in 2014.

    New renewable generating capacity broke the 100GW barrier in 2014, equivalent to the entire fleet of nuclear power plants in the US, a UN report shows.

    Global investment in renewable energy during 2014 increased by 17% from 2013 levels to US$270bn (£183bn).

    “Solar was up 29% to US$150bn, while wind was up 11% to almost US$100bn. The other sectors did less well, some are maturing but others have yet to mature.

    “Technologically, solar is doing well at both small-scale (roof tops) and larger scale.

    “The big story in wind, in developed economies – Europe particularly – is large-scale off-shore, which had a very good year receiving US$18.6bn in financing in Europe alone.”

    Investors have been attracted by the increasing cost effectiveness and low risk of the solar and wind sectors.

    The analysis has been published by the UN Environment Programme (Unep) and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

    Achim Steiner, Unep executive director, observed: “Once again in 2014, renewables made up nearly half of the net power capacity added worldwide.
    Solar recorded strong levels of growth in both large-scale and small-scale projects

    “These climate-friendly energy technologies are now an indispensable component of the global energy mix and their importance will only increase as markets mature, technology prices continue to fall and the need to rein in carbon emissions becomes ever more important.”

    China was by fair the biggest investor, pumping a record US$83.3bn into the sector – up by more than a third on its 2013 financing.

    The US was second, investing US$38.3bn. Japan was a close third with US$35.7bn.

    ‘Exciting innovations’

    Mr Usher added: “In North America, we see the financial sector doing some very exciting innovations. For example, they are bundling together tens of thousands of household-scale systems into financing structures that can get Wall Street bankers excited.”

    He explained the financing packages were set up for the gas and renewables sector, but renewable projects were “pulling away” from gas projects.

    “They are very low risk. Once you have set up a wind farm or solar system, the risks are actually much lower than running a gas plant because you do not have a pricing risk.

    Therefore the cost of financing renewables has come down remarkably. Now projects can raise financing at very low cost and that leads to a lower end-use cost of electricity.”

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  • This is completely normal folks. It’s got nothing to do with global warming, because that’s not happening because god wouldn’t let it happen, and those scientists that say it is are secret communists trying to take over the world. So move along folks and go about your business.

    Typhoon Mayask is a category 5 Typhoon and its about the hit the Philippines. (2nd Cat 5 in 2 years for the Philippines.) Ask all us global warming deniers. We know that category 5 typhoons are as common as fundamentalists christians in the Republican party. And even though it is winter in the northern hemisphere, category 5 typhoons happen all the time in winter in the N.W. Pacific. So the good Catholic nation of the Philippines should lie back and think of god as their country has the B’Jesus flatten out of it, because this is not global warming. This is normal. Just god’s wrath on display.

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    2014 was the warmest year on record, with global temperatures 0.68C (1.24F) above the long-term average, US government scientists have said.

    The results mean that 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have occurred since the turn of the century.

    The analysis was published on Friday by Nasa and Noaa researchers.

    **Last month, the World Meteorological Organization released provisional figures that predicted the past 12 months were set to be record breakers.*

    The long-term global average temperature is calculated from data collected between 1951 and 1980.

    “This is the latest in a series of warm years, in a series of warm decades,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

    “While the ranking of individual years can be affected by chaotic weather patterns, the long-term trends are attributable to drivers of climate change that right now are dominated by human emissions of greenhouse gases,” he added.

    Nasa and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) maintain two of the three global datasets of global temperatures. The UK’s Met Office maintains the third.

    Data from all three are used by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and formed the basis of its provisional figures in December.

    Talking to journalists, Dr Schmidt said the results from the two sets of data showed “a lot of warmth in the oceans”.

    “It shows very clearly that it has been the warmest year on record in the oceans but it wasn’t quite the warmest year in the land records but combined it did give us the warmest year,” he explained.

    No doubt the cherry-picking denialists, will find somewhere on Earth where it is a bit cooler!

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