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Climate: Study paints nuanced picture of regional and global temperature variability in a warming world

OZ wxmap

Australia experienced a record-breaking summer heatwave this year.

Loss of sea ice will eventually lead to decrease in global temperature variability

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Climate scientists from the UK say their latest study paints a nuanced picture of global temperature variability, outlining recent geographical shifts and projecting an overall long-term decrease in variability as global temperatures rise.

“Fluctuations in annual average temperatures have shown very substantial geographical alteration in recent decades. However, to our surprise, when considered across the globe, total variability has been relatively stable,” said
lead author Dr. Chris Huntingford, with the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (a joint program of the University of East Anglia and the University of Exeter).

Yearly temperature variability has increased across large parts of Europe and North America in recent decades, but has decreased or remained stable in other regions, according to the study published July 24 in Nature.

“The movement of raised temperature variability to regions of high population may have contributed to the general perception that climate is becoming more volatile,” Huntingford said.

“We used globally-complete surface temperature data that has been constructed by merging observations and weather forecasts, and verified our findings against station temperature records,” said co-author Phil Jones, from the University of East Anglia.

But as Earth becomes warmer overall, with ever-higher concentrations of greenhouse gases, temperature fluctuations will actually decrease towards the end of this century, the study projects.

“We provide evidence that decreasing global temperature variability will be a consequence of major sea-ice loss in a warmer world,” said co-author Professor Peter Cox, with the University of Exeter.

“Our findings contradict the sometimes stated view that a warming world will automatically be one of more overall climatic variation,” Huntingford added.

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