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Climate Change Brings Heat Waves and Cold Snaps

Jul 31, 2014 05:04 PM EDT
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While climate change is usually associated with warming temperatures, new research indicates that the planet will experience heat waves as well as cold snaps in the coming years.
(Photo : Reuters)

While climate change is usually associated with warming temperatures, new research indicates that the planet will experience heat waves as well as cold snaps in the coming years.

About 97 percent of scientists, at this point, agree that the temperature of the planet is rising because of human-related activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. But until now, they didn't know the degree of variability surrounding that increase - meaning the difference between hot and cold days from one year to the next.

Prior studies focused on phenomenon like whether a par­tic­ular region would expe­ri­ence overall warming. But lead author Evan Kodra from Northeastern University and his team took a different approach, instead honing in on variability.

As described in the journal Nature, the researchers discovered that while global tem­per­a­ture is indeed increasing, so too is the vari­ability in tem­per­a­ture extremes. For instance, while each year's average hottest and coldest tem­per­a­tures will likely rise, those aver­ages will also tend to fall within a wider range of poten­tial high and low tem­perate extremes than are cur­rently being observed.

This means that even as overall tem­per­a­tures rise, we may still con­tinue to expe­ri­ence extreme cold snaps, Kodra said.

"Just because you have a year that's colder than the usual over the last decade isn't a rejec­tion of the global warming hypoth­esis," he explained in a statement.

This study provides knowledge beneficial for planning for the future. For example, knowing that models project a wider range of extreme tem­per­a­ture behavior will allow sec­tors like agri­cul­ture, public health and insur­ance to take action now to mitigate those future effects.

Kodra added, "an agri­cul­ture insur­ance com­pany wants to know next year what is the coldest snap we could see and hedge against that. So, if the range gets wider they have a broader array of poli­cies to consider."

Nature World News recently reported that things will particularly be heating up soon for the northeast and southwest parts of the United States, based on data from the National Climatic Data Center.

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