Climate Change Info Emerges in Advance of IPCC Release

January 17, 2007

Publication date: Jan. 17, 2007 


With climate change continuing to grow in news prominence, it'll be helpful to have access to the latest developments:

A backward glance shows that, in the US, 2006 was the warmest year on record (tied with 1998), according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's early January 2007 calculations. Along with the high temperatures, much of the US remained in severe drought, and the country experienced a record wildfire season. The Atlantic hurricane season ended a little below normal, but the Eastern Pacific was far above normal, including three named storms that came ashore on Mexico's Pacific coast.

For the world, temperatures in 2006 are expected to be the sixth warmest on record, according to the World Meteorological Organization.Final numbers are expected in March 2007. Most impacted were southern Asia, Australia, much of Europe, and North America, including Canada's warmest winter and spring since record keeping began in 1948. Arctic sea ice extent was the second lowest on record, trailing only 2005, contributing to the trend of steady decline since at least 1979. Overall, 10 of the world's warmest years on record have occurred since 1995. Along with the high temperatures, many areas in the world experienced record-setting rains, floods, and droughts. Aloft, the Antarctic ozone hole set another record.

Another trend: the upper atmosphere seems to be thinning and cooling. That "fingerprint" identifying manmade greenhouse warming was predicted back in the late 1980s. It has direct implications for everyday concerns such as satellite paths, and uncertain implications for how the divergent paths of temperature change in the layers of the atmosphere may interact.

Some of the latest evidence for upper atmospheric cooling was presented by the National Center for Atmospheric Research's Stanley Solomon and colleagues at the Dec. 12, 2006, meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, according to Sid Perkins' Science Newsarticle of Dec. 23/30, 2006 (full article for subscribers; free access for references cited in article).

Additional evidence was published Nov. 24, 2006, in Science by University of Colorado scientist Rashid Akmaev and others, as noted by Denver Post journalist Katy Human in a Nov. 23, 2006, article.

In a Jan. 4, 2007, press release acknowledging the latest climate trends, the US National Academies offered links to a number of its recent reports, including one in 2006 ("Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Last 2,000 Years"), that may be useful.

Looking ahead to 2007, the United Kingdom's Met Office, which says UK temperatures in 2006 were the highest since record keeping began in 1659, predicts the world will experience the warmest year on record this year. The organization says its forecasts the past seven years have been accurate to within an average of 0.06 degrees C. Even if temperatures are at the lowest end of its prediction, by the full 0.06, that would leave the world 0.48 degrees warmer than the 1961-1990 average. The Met Office is one of two primary resources used by the World Meteorological Organization; the other is NOAA.

All these resources may be useful complements to the expected early-February 2007 release of the "Fourth Assessment Report on Climate Change" by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (press release and About IPCC). The phased release of the Report is scheduled to continue in early April, early May, and mid-November.


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