Scientists to (Finally) Start Focusing on Short-Term Climate Predictions

Some of you may (understandably) be wondering why scientists haven't always focused on short-term climate predictions. Well, perhaps counterintuitively, that's because predicting what the climate will be like 100 years from now is much easier than predicting what it will be like even a decade from now. A group of 29 international climate scientists, meeting last week at the Aspen Global Change Institute, is closely looking into this question. One reason for this could be that modeling large-scale climate variations, over a period of several centuries, is easier to do than modeling year-to-year changes, which often fluctuate in unpredictable patterns. Scientists generally believe that, over the short term, drought conditions will have a larger impact on human populations than will global warming.

Looking to the ocean to learn more about short-term climate change
According to Lisa Goddard, a research scientist at Columbia University's Earth Institute, much of the recent progress in understanding short-term climate variations can be attributed to a better understanding of ocean patterns. Climate scientists have been relying on Argos, a network of automated buoys, to obtain temperature and salinity measurements of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Pairing this data with models has yielded a more concrete measure of how land-ocean interactions affect short-term global warming.

The stakes
And not a moment too soon, as Jessica Marshall notes in a recent Discovery News story:

Schneider's hope is that while it might still be 20 years before actions to reduce CO2 emissions really have an effect, innovations over the next two decades will make it possible to dramatically reduce emissions.

"My cynical scenario is that there will be more Katrinas, massive fires, melting of the Arctic, and people will say, 'Oh my God, what have we done. We'd better undo this,'" he said. Such catastrophes could finally spark the dramatic change that's needed, he suggests, if we don't take action sooner of our own accord.

"I try not to talk about a threshold of two degrees," Schneider added. "At 1.8 the world is not fine. At 2.2, we don't turn into a climatic pumpkin. We just have more severe events. The object is not to get hung up on the numbers. The object is to get out there and get solutions."

Via ::The Aspen Times: Scientists work on short-term climate predictions (news website)

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