Friday, February 8, 2013

IPCC predictions for global temperature

The intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) is a United Nations intergovernmental body that provides scientific assessments of the risks that human induced climate change imposes. The IPCC first assessment report (FAR) was completed in 1990, and concluded; human activity significantly alters the natural greenhouse effect, which will result in an increased rate of global warming. More specifically the group predicted an increase in average global temperature of 0.55 degrees Celsius by 2010, and 1.1 degrees Celsius by 2030.

A study by David Frame and Daithi Stone analyzed climate data collected across the planet from the years 1990-2010. After running various models, they found two averages; 0.35 C and 0.39 C. These numbers get even closer to 0.55 when an adjustment is added (that accounts for naturally occurring seasonal fluctuations in global temperature).

What makes this so impressive is the inherent uncertainty of climatic predictions. There are unpredictable external forces that act on climatic systems that are difficult to effectively capture in mathematical models, such as volcanic eruptions, and socio-economical changes. Hopefully this example will add weight to the use of predictive models, as they are currently one of our best tools to make informed decisions about climate change.

Sources and Further Reading
- Assessment of the first consensus prediction on climate change,Nature Climate Change (2012) David Frame and Daithi Stone


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