Don’t go packing up those air conditioners just yet – we may be in this heatwave for the long haul. According to new research published in Nature Communications, we could be seeing “abnormally high” temperatures for the next five years and perhaps even longer, further increasing the likelihood of tropical storms.
While anthropogenic climate change is certainly a factor contributing to the global warming trend, it’s not the sole cause. Scientists at the National Center of Scientific Research (CNRS) have developed a new method for predicting global surface temperatures by tracking weather anomalies along with human-driven climate change. The new figures are greater than those estimated using strictly human-caused global warming alone.
Between 1998 and 2013, the world experienced a global warming “hiatus”. During this time, global average surface temperatures temporarily slowed down as the ocean began absorbing extra heat, redistributing energy within the Earth system. Researchers found that global warming from greenhouse gas emissions is more uncertain than previously thought as natural variability plays a much larger role in the rates of warming over decades.
Called the PRObabilistic foreCAST system (PROCAST for short), the new method takes into account these rates and variability to help accurately predict temperature changes in the future. Working under the Laboratory for Ocean Physics and Remote Sensing (LOPS), CNRS researchers used a statistical method known as CMIP5, which uses a database of information from 1880 to 2016, to create situations of current climate conditions and deduce future possibilities. In their simulations, PROCAST accounted for the global warming hiatus at the beginning of this century even though it was considered a statistical outlier.
“This places PROCAST among the state-of-the-art prediction systems, which have been able to retrospectively predict the recent global warming hiatus,” wrote the researchers.
Overall, the current warming trend is expected to continue for the next five years, and perhaps even longer. Between 2018 and 2019, it is likely the warming events will not only increase but extreme cold events will also decrease.
PROCAST only forecasts overall average temperatures, but the researchers write they hope to soon expand predictions to rainfall, droughts, or intense hurricane activity and to give the general public updates by “running a simple application on a personal portable device.”