From: Jan Piotrowski, SciDevNet, More from this Affiliate
Published October 5, 2013 07:27 AM

Climate models need to get small

Better observational data and geographically precise climate models are needed to allow scientists to predict the effects of rising atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations at a local level, says a major climate change report.


Deficiencies in these areas prevent reliable temperature and rainfall predictions being made on a regional scale, according to the report published this week (30 September) by Working Group I of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The document, while underlining how much climate change science has advanced since the panel's last major report in 2007, also stresses the urgent need for more location-specific assessment, says Michel Jarraud, the secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization.

"We need further projections, in particular to downscale this information to a regional and local level," he told a press conference in Stockholm, Sweden, on Friday.

The report compiles the scientific evidence for the physical aspects of climate change and, when joined by two upcoming investigations, one on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability, and the other on mitigation options, will comprise the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report (AR5).

While models predicting temperature changes at a continent-wide scale consistently agree with observations, moving to a regional level adds much more uncertainty, meaning they match less well, says report.

A lack of observational data and methodological uncertainties also prevent any firm conclusions from being drawn about drought patterns, even at a global level, says report.

But the report finds that tropical and sub-tropical regions — where the majority of developing countries are found — will experience dramatic changes in rainfall as the climate warms.

Water well in Peruvian desert photo via Shutterstock.

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