Global Warming and Climate Chang

  Global Warming and Climate Change


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The IPCC has developed a range of scenarios, of future greenhouse gas and aerosol precursor emissions based on assumptions concerning population and economic growth, land­use, technological changes, energy availability and fuel mix during the period 1990 to 2100. Through understanding of the global carbon cycle and of atmospheric chemistry, these emissions can be used to project atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases and aerosols and the perturbation of natural radiative forcing. Climate models can then be used to develop projections of future climate.

  • The increasing realism of simulations of current and past climate by coupled atmosphere­ocean climate models has increased our confidence in their use for projection of future climate change. Important uncertainties remain, but these have been taken into account in the full range of projections of global mean temperature and sea­level change.

  • For the mid­range IPCC emission scenario, IS92a, assuming the "best estimate" value of climate sensitivity and including the effects of future increases in aerosol, models project an increase in global mean surface air temperature relative to 1990 of about 2°C by 2100. This estimate is approximately one­third lower than the "best estimate" in 1990. This is due primarily to lower emission scenarios (particularly for CO2 and the CFCs), the inclusion of the cooling effect of sulphate aerosols, and improvements in the treatment of the carbon cycle. Combining the lowest IPCC emission scenario (IS92c) with a "low" value of climate sensitivity and including the effects of future changes in aerosol concentrations leads to a projected increase of about 1°C by 2100. The corresponding projection for the highest IPCC scenario (IS92e) combined with a "high" value of climate sensitivity gives a warming of about 3.5°C. In all cases the average rate of warming would probably be greater than any seen in the last 10,000 years, but the actual annual to decadal changes would include considerable natural variability. Regional temperature changes could differ substantially from the global mean value. Because of the thermal inertia of the oceans, only 50­90% of the eventual equilibrium temperature change would have been realized by 2100 and temperature would continue to increase beyond 2100, even if concentrations of greenhouse gases were stabilized by that time.

  • Average sea level is expected to rise as a result of thermal expansion of the oceans and melting of glaciers and ice­sheets. For the IS92a scenario, assuming the "best estimate" values of climate sensitivity and of ice­melt sensitivity to warming, and including the effects of future changes in aerosol, models project an increase in sea level of about 50 cm from the present to 2100. This estimate is approximately 25% lower than the "best estimate" in 1990 due to the lower temperature projection, but also reflecting improvements in the climate and ice­melt models. Combining the lowest emission scenario (IS92c) with the "low" climate and ice­melt sensitivities and including aerosol effects gives a projected sea­level rise of about 15 cm from the present to 2100. The corresponding projection for the highest emission scenario (IS92e) combined with "high" climate and ice­melt sensitivities gives a sea­level rise of about 95 cm from the present to 2100. Sea level would continue to rise at a similar rate in future centuries beyond 2100, even if concentrations of greenhouse gases were stabilized by that time, and would continue to do so even beyond the time of stabilization of global mean temperature. Regional sea­level changes may differ from the global mean value owing to land movement and ocean current changes.

  • Confidence is higher in the hemispheric­to­continental scale projections of coupled atmosphere­ocean climate models than in the regional projections, where confidence remains low. There is more confidence in temperature projections than hydrological changes.

  • All model simulations, whether they were forced with increased concentrations of greenhouse gases and aerosols or with increased concentrations of greenhouse gases alone, show the following features: greater surface warming of the land than of the sea in winter; a maximum surface warming in high northern latitudes in winter, little surface warming over the Arctic in summer; an enhanced global mean hydrological cycle, and increased precipitation and soil moisture in high latitudes in winter. All these changes are associated with identifiable physical mechanisms.

  • In addition, most simulations show a reduction in the strength of the north Atlantic thermohaline circulation and a widespread reduction in diurnal range of temperature. These features too can be explained in terms of identifiable physical mechanisms.

  • The direct and indirect effects of anthropogenic aerosols have an important effect on the projections. Generally, the magnitudes of the temperature and precipitation changes are smaller when aerosol effects are represented, especially in northern mid­latitudes. Note that the cooling effect of aerosols is not a simple offset to the warming effect of greenhouse gases, but significantly affects some of the continental scale patterns of climate change, most noticeably in the summer hemisphere. For example, models that consider only the effects of greenhouse gases generally project an increase in precipitation and soil moisture in the Asian summer monsoon region, whereas models that include, in addition, some of the effects of aerosols suggest that monsoon precipitation may decrease. The spatial and temporal distribution of aerosols greatly influences regional projections, which are therefore more uncertain.

  • A general warming is expected to lead to an increase in the occurrence of extremely hot days and a decrease in the occurrence of extremely cold days.

  • Warmer temperatures will lead to a more vigorous hydrological cycle; this translates into prospects for more severe droughts and/or floods in some places and less severe droughts and/or floods in other places. Several models indicate an increase in precipitation intensity, suggesting a possibility for more extreme rainfall events. Knowledge is currently insufficient to say whether there will be any changes in the occurrence or geographical distribution of severe storms, e.g., tropical cyclones.

  • Sustained rapid climate change could shift the competitive balance among species and even lead to forest dieback, altering the terrestrial uptake and release of carbon. The magnitude is uncertain, but could be between zero and 200 GtC over the next one to two centuries, depending on the rate of climate change.

The experts of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) coincide in that the elevation of the global temperatures will cause an elevation of the sea level, changes under the precipitation regimens and other local climatic conditions. The regional changes of the climate can alter the forests, the yield in crops, and the sources of water. It can also be threatened the health human, damaged species of birds, fish and many types of ecosystems. Most of North America will observe a general tendency to increment of the precipitation and the evaporation, it will be more intense the storms and drier the floors. The models for specific areas, according to the specialists, suffer of remarkable      uncertainties.



From Greenhouse Effect Web Page produced by Mark Bennett.




Evaluación del Grupo Intergubernamental de Expertos sobre el Cambio Climático (IPCC) 2001. Informe de síntesis para responsables de políticas.