A recent study conducted by scientists at Stanford University found that many tropical regions in Africa, Asia and South America could see “the permanent emergence of unprecedented summer heat” in the next two decades. Middle latitudes, like Europe, China and the United States are likely to undergo extreme summer temperature shifts within 60 years, the researchers found.
This symptom of climate change is expected to develop so quickly that by the middle of this century even the coolest summers will be hotter than the hottest summers of the past 50 years.
Although its effects are more widely varied, many people interpret climate change to mean global warming: the gradual raising of average temperatures across the entire planet.
“…People often ask if that means that the hottest temperatures will become ‘the new normal,’” said the study’s lead author, Noah Diffenbaugh. “That got us thinking – at what point can we expect the coolest seasonal temperatures to always be hotter than the historically highest temperatures for that season?”
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.
Permanent changes in temperatures like the ones predicted by the Stanford scientists will have severe consequences for human health, agricultural production and ecosystem productivity.
Unfortunately, the scientists’ research was based on a relatively moderate forecast of greenhouse gas emissions in the 21st century, meaning that if human contributions to climate change continue unchecked into the next decade, consequences could be even more severe than predicted.
Image Credit: Flickr – basykes
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