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Stanford climate scientists forecast permanently hotter summers
Date:6/6/2011

ysis revealed that many parts of the planet could experience a permanent spike in seasonal temperatures within 60 years.

"We also analyzed historical data from weather stations around the world to see if the projected emergence of unprecedented heat had already begun," Diffenbaugh said. "It turns out that when we look back in time using temperature records, we find that this extreme heat emergence is occurring now, and that climate models represent the historical patterns remarkably well."

According to both the climate model analysis and the historical weather data, the tropics are heating up the fastest. "We find that the most immediate increase in extreme seasonal heat occurs in the tropics, with up to 70 percent of seasons in the early 21st century (2010-2039) exceeding the late-20th century maximum," the authors wrote.

Tropical regions may see the most dramatic changes first, but wide swaths of North America, China and Mediterranean Europe are also likely to enter into a new heat regime by 2070, according to the study.

Environmental impact

This dramatic shift in seasonal temperatures could have severe consequences for human health, agricultural production and ecosystem productivity, Diffenbaugh said. As an example, he pointed to record heat waves in Europe in 2003 that killed 40,000 people. He also cited studies showing that projected increases in summer temperatures in the Midwestern United States could reduce the harvest of staples, such as corn and soybeans, by more than 30 percent.

Diffenbaugh was surprised to see how quickly the new, potentially destructive heat regimes are likely to emerge, given that the study was based on a relatively moderate forecast of greenhouse gas emissions in the 21st century.

"The fact that we're already seeing these changes in historical weather observations, and that they match climate model simulations so closely, increases our confidence that our projections of pe
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Contact: Mark Shwartz
mshwartz@stanford.edu
650-723-9296
Stanford University
Source:Eurekalert

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