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Despite Bitter Cold Weekend in US, Climate Models Indicate Global Warming is Intensifying

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The Australian based Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science has released a new study arguing that climate models have underestimated the extent to which  the doubling of carbon dioxide will affect global surface temperatures.  While earlier climate sensitivity models projected a 1.5 to 5 degree Celsius increase in global temperature by 2100, the new research removes the low end estimate and projects an increase of between 3 and 4 degrees Celsius. In Fahrenheit, a four degree increase in the current average global temperature of a round 14 Celsius to 18 Celsius translates into a roughly 7 degree increase on the Fahrenheit scale from 57 degrees to 64 degrees for an average global temperature. 

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At a time when much of the Midwest, Northeast and American South are experiencing near record cold temperatures the new study is likely to be met with some skepticism and derision from climate change deniers who argue with anecdotes rather than with the body of scientific data and climate models based upon that data.

Despite the high profile cold wave that is now affecting a large portion of the United States, the average global land and ocean surface temperature in 2012 and 2013 was close to one degree Fahrenheit warmer than for the period from 1961-1990 and climatologists expect the rate of warming to accelerate with increased buildup of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere. The decade from 2000 to 2009 remains the warmest full decade since weather records began in 1850. Every year since 1986 has had above average global temperatures, with the fifteen warmest years on record

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all occurring in 1998 or later.

While the current cold spell will no doubt invigorate climate change skeptics, a global perspective reminds us that we are just two months removed from the warmest November on the planet in over a century of keeping weather records, and that 37 consecutive Novembers have recorded global surface temperatures above the 20th Century November average. In addition, through November the earth has had 345 consecutive months with temperatures above the 20th Century average.

While climate change deniers will use cold temperatures this week to make their case, the data overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that on average the planet is getting warmer. The latest models also suggest it may be getting warmer faster and more dramatically than previous models have projected. The consequences of a seven degree average annual increase in global temperatures could portend unimaginable consequences for humanity. The time to address the possible impact of climate change is now, even in the midst of a cold spell that some mistakenly interpret as a sign that the threat is not real.

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