Extreme Climate Will Hurt Tropics First, Not the Arctic

Source: Scientific American

By the year 2047 the mean air temperature around the planet will shift completely out of the range seen in recent history. From that point on, even a cold year will be warmer than any warm year from 1860 to 2005 if nations continue to emit carbon dioxide the way they do now. And the new extreme temperatures—the new normal—will first occur not in the Arctic but in the tropics, where people, plants and wildlife are least equipped to adapt. That disquieting analysis comes from a massive new study led by Camilo Mora at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa, published today in Nature. (Scientific American is part of Nature Publishing Group.)

The report begins with the recognition that the annual mean global air temperature fluctuates from year to year, even though it has been climbing overall since the industrial revolution began. If the world does nothing new, then the temperature by 2047 will exceed even the highest annual temperature from 1860 to 2005. If the world aggressively cuts back on emissions, then the date at which the temperature fully departs from modern history will be delayed until 2069. Mora and his colleagues crunched data from 39 different climate models that feed two future scenarios: business as usual (leading to the 2049 date) and aggressive mitigation (the 2069 date). The same two scenarios are cornerstones of the new climate assessment released two weeks ago by the International Panel on Climate Change.

Departure date for near-surface air temperature


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