Thursday, December 5, 2013

Feeling the Heat: A New Study Pinpoints When and Where

While it is widely known that greenhouse gas emissions are warming the planet, a new study pinpoints the years and locations that we can expect unprecedented heat to become the new normal. The study suggests where and when we can expect to see significant increases in the mean temperature. Within ten years cities like Kingston, Jamaica, are expected to break average heat records as a new norm kicks in. In about 15 years the hotter norm will settle into places like Singapore, followed by Mexico City, Cairo, Phoenix and Honolulu. Within the next two decades, 59 cities will be suffering from unprecedented heat. By 2047 the heat will be inescapable as the whole world will be suffering.

Camilo Mora and colleagues in the College of Social Sciences’ Department of Geography at the University of Hawaii, Manoa revealed their findings in a study, entitled “The projected timing of climate departure from recent variability,” which was published in the October 10 issue of Nature. The researchers used weather observations, computer models and other data to produce their results.

Carnegie Institution climate scientist Chris Field described the research as, "A kind of threshold into a hot new world from which one never goes back." "This is really dramatic."Field said.

Even if we manage to reduce our emissions Mora suggests that we would only delay the onset of the worst impacts until 2069. Despite these troubling findings, Mora and his colleagues are not fatalistic and they hope their research can help governments to see the wisdom of doing something before it is too late. "Now is the time to act," said study co-author, Ryan Longman.

The impacts of global warming are already being felt in ocean acidification which has show consistent increases since 2008 and this will decimate coral reefs and the diversity of marine life which depends upon them. In the tropics there will be massive impacts on biodiversity.

While some have suggested that Mora may be presenting an overly optimistic portrayal of time frames, one thing is certain, once we pass these thresholds there will be no turning back.

© 2013, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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