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HELLO I'M KENNY LISCHER|A STUDENT IN GENE REGULATION LAB|ENJOY SCIENCE AND MOMENT|LET'S LEARN, SHARE, AND INSPIRE

Future Climate Change

Greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere will increase during the next century unless greenhouse gas emissions decrease substantially from present levels. Increased greenhouse gas concentrations are very likely to raise the Earth's average temperature, influence precipitation and some storm patterns as well as raise sea levels (IPCC, 2007). The magnitude of these changes, however, is uncertain.

The amount and speed of future climate change will ultimately depend on:

  • Whether greenhouse gases and aerosol concentrations increase, stay the same or decrease.
  • How strongly features of the climate (e.g. temperature, precipitation and sea level) respond to changes in greenhouse gas and aerosol concentrations.
  • How much the climate varies as a result of natural influences (e.g. from volcanic activity and changes in the sun ’s intensity) and its internal variability (referring to random changes in the circulation of the atmosphere and oceans).

Climate Models

Virtually all published estimates of how the climate could change in the future are produced by computer models of the Earth’s climate system. These models are known as general circulation models (GCMs). According to the IPCC (2007):

“[C]onfidence in models comes from their physical basis, and their skill in representing observed climate and past climate changes. Models have proven to be extremely important tools for simulating and understanding climate, and there is considerable confidence that they are able to provide credible quantitative estimates of future climate change, particularly at larger scales. Models continue to have significant limitations, such as in their representation of clouds, which lead to uncertainties in the magnitude and timing, as well as regional details, of predicted climate change. Nevertheless, over several decades of model development, they have consistently provided a robust and unambiguous picture of significant climate warming in response to increasing greenhouse gases.”

It is important to recognize that projections of climate change in specific areas are not forecasts comparable to tomorrow’s weather forecast. Rather, they are hypothetical examples of how the climate might change and usually contain a range of possibilities as opposed to one specific high likelihood outcome.

The following pages provide a summary of the projected changes in the atmosphere and climate over the next century based on the current state of knowledge:

References

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