Warming to Level Off, Then Speed Back Up, New Model Predicts

Mati Milstein
for National Geographic News
August 9, 2007

Warming due to climate change will level off in the coming years, researchers predict based on a new climate model. But then temperatures will kick back up and continue rising into the early 2010s, producing record highs.

In fact, about half of the years after 2009 will be warmer than 1998, the hottest year on record, scientists say.

The new model, created by researchers at the Met Office Hadley Centre in Exeter, is the first to predict such specific fluctuations in global climate.

Doug Smith, a scientist at the Met Office and co-author of a paper on the new model, warns that the initial leveling-off should not be seen as countering previous predictions about global temperature increases.

"This doesn't mean that global warming isn't happening. There is no contradiction there," Smith said. "Warming is still predicted and, in fact, we see a signal of that in the coming ten years."

The new model instead produces more accurate short-term forecasts that can be region specific, Smith and colleagues say.

For example, "what's happening this past year with floods in China, Bangladesh, and England—the increased intensity of flooding—could be related to global warming," said Colin Price, an atmospheric scientist with the Porter School of Environmental Studies at Tel Aviv University in Israel.

(Related photos: "Record-Breaking Weather Pounds Planet" [August 8, 2007].)

But Price, who was not involved in the new study, emphasized that right now it is difficult to blame climate change for any individual event.

Natural Factors

In general, experts agree that Earth's temperature will rise some 2 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 to 2.2 degrees Celsius) above pre-industrial levels in the coming century (get global warming fast facts).

But this prediction is a global average spanning decades and doesn't take regional situations into account.

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