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Global warming

Global warming to usher in weather extremes, impacting crops and food supply

Tuesday, October 24, 2006 by: Jerome Douglas
Tags: global warming, climate change, extreme weather


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(NewsTarget) Much of the world is likely to experience extended droughts, heavy rainfalls and longer heat waves over the next century because of global warming, a new study has forecasted. The Western United States, the Mediterranean and Brazil are specifically included in the findings from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

The NCAR study reinforces what nine of the world's top computer-based models have predicted for the extreme changes in climate that are possible as a result of global warming. Claudia Tebaldi, a scientist at the NCAR and lead researcher on the study, said, "It's going to be a wild ride, especially for specific regions." Tebaldi pointed to the Western United States, Mediterranean nations and Brazil as "hot spots" that will see extreme weather changes at their worst.

In addition to these regions seeing weather changes, some places -- such as the Pacific Northwest -- are predicted to witness a strange double effect of longer dry spells with periods of heavier rainfall. Gerald Meehl, a top computer weather modeler at the NCAR, said that as the world warms, there will be more rain likely in the tropical Pacific Ocean, and that will change the air flow for certain areas, much like El Nino did.

Meehl added that "Extreme events are the kinds of things that have the biggest impacts, not only on humans, but on mammals and ecosystems." The newer study, which will be published in the December issue of the journal Climatic Change, also quotes Meehl as saying the study's results "gives us stronger and more compelling evidence that these changes in extremes are more likely."

The NCAR researchers took 10 international agreed-upon indices that measure climate extremes into account in the research study: five that deal with temperature, and five that involve precipitation -- and performed computer modeling for the world through the year. Tebaldi admitted that the scariest results had to do with heat waves and warm nights. He says everything about heat waves -- their intensity, length and occurrence -- appeared to become worse in the study's results.

Lead researcher Tebaldi's overall global weather assessment corresponds with the National Climatic Data Center's tracking of extreme events in the United States, according to David Easterling, chief of the center's scientific services. In addition to Tebaldi's new research, Easterling's group has created a massive climate extreme index that measures the weather only in the United States. For example, the United States experienced the second most extreme year in 95 years in 2005, and the worst year was in 1998.

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