A new NASA study shows Earth’s climate likely will continue to warm during this century on track with previous estimates, despite the recent slowdown in the rate of global warming.
This research hinges on a new and more detailed calculation of the sensitivity of Earth’s climate to the factors that cause it to change, such as greenhouse gas emissions. Drew Shindell, a climatologist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, found Earth is likely to experience roughly 20 percent more warming than estimates that were largely based on surface temperature observations during the past 150 years.
Shindell’s paper on this research was published March 9 in the journal Nature Climate Change.
Global temperatures have increased at a rate of 0.22 Fahrenheit (0.12 Celsius) per decade since 1951. But since 1998, the rate of warming has been only 0.09 F (0.05 C) per decade — even as atmospheric carbon dioxide continues to rise at a rate similar to previous decades. Carbon dioxide is the most significant greenhouse gas generated by humans.
Some recent research, aimed at fine-tuning long-term warming projections by taking this slowdown into account, suggested Earth may be less sensitive to greenhouse gas increases than previously thought. The Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was issued in 2013 and was the consensus report on the state of climate change science, also reduced the lower range of Earth’s potential for global warming.