Climate change is getting worse, not better. That can mean devastatingly hot summers in the near future: drought, crop damage, heat stroke. The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in our own Boulder, Colorado, revealed that in 50 years, the Earth could have summers hotter that everyone has never experienced before, and not by just a few degrees.
According to the NCAR study any summer between 2061 and 2080 will be hotter than ever. The hottest recorded summer is 80 percent, but future summers will be way warmer.
The scientists used two model simulations created by the Community Earth System Model to observe what the future summers on Earth will be like. Each of the models was set in different conditions: summer with increased and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
The scientists at NCAR also compared the results to past summertime temperatures between 1920 and 2014 by simulating the models repetitively to see how the temperature ranged through time.
“Instead of just comparing the future to 95 summers from the past, the models give us the opportunity to create more than 1,400 possible past summers. The result is a more comprehensive and robust look at what should be considered natural variability and what can be attributed to climate change,” said Flavio Lehner, lead author of the study.
The results revealed that between 2061 and 2080, North and South America, central Europe, Asia and Africa will have a 90 percent chance of experiencing record-breaking summer heat if climate change continues. The intensity of the heat, according to the study, will increase per year.
However, there is still hope. The simulations showed that reducing greenhouse emissions could lower the possibility of extremely hot summers by 41 percent. The result of the reduced emissions will vary depending on geographical location. Parts of Brazil, central Europe and eastern China will massively reduce their chance of hot summers by half.
This research, which was funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Swiss National Science Foundation, is the first time that summer heat and its dependence on the rate of greenhouse gas emissions have been studied in a climate model simulation.
“Extreme temperatures pose risks to people around the globe. These scientists show the power of ensembles of simulations for understanding how these risks depend on the level of greenhouse gas emissions,” said Eric DeWeaver, program director in NSF’s Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences.