By now, most scientists – 97 percent of them, to be exact – agree that the temperature of the planet is rising and that the increase is due to human activities such as fossil fuel use and deforestation.
But what about the variability surrounding that average increase in temperature? For example, how much difference there will be between the hottest hot days from one year to the next, as well as with each year’s coldest cold days?
The results of a new study by a team of scientists at Northeastern University might suprise some. Their research suggest that while global temperature is indeed increasing, so too is the variability in temperature extremes. For instance, while each year’s average hottest and coldest temperatures will likely rise, those averages will also tend to fall within a wider range of potential high and low temperate extremes than are currently being observed.
This means that even as overall temperatures rise, we may still continue to experience extreme cold snaps, said researcher Evan Kodra. Kodra said:
Just because you have a year that’s colder than the usual over the last decade isn’t a rejection of the global warming hypothesis.
The team used computational tools from Big Data science to systematically examine this aspect of climate change. The study used simulations from the most recent climate models developed by groups around the world for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and “reanalysis data sets,” which are generated by blending the best available weather observations with numerical weather models. The team combined a suite of methods in a relatively new way to characterize extremes and explain how their variability is influenced by things like the seasons, geographical region, and the land-sea interface.
The paper was published July 30 online in the journal Scientific Reports, published by Nature.