Researchers Find Dangerous Evidence of Accelerated Global Warming

Every decade since the 1960s has been hotter than the last, as several climate models had anticipated. However, there has been considerable discussion in the scientific world regarding whether or not this warming is happening more quickly, especially in light of the disastrous weather we had last year.

A few months ago, James Hansen, a former NASA scientist and author of one of the key early articles alerting the world to global warming, presented a report claiming that since 2010, the rate of warming has increased by 50%.

Even though certain climate models indicated some acceleration, peers viewed this with suspicion.

“[Hansen’s study is] not implausible but not particularly well supported by the literature,” Berkeley climate scientist Zeke Hausfather told the Associated Press.

The results of a recent study conducted by French environmental scientist Audrey Minière of Paul Sabatier University show that ocean temperatures are also beginning to increase more quickly.

“Detecting an acceleration of Earth heating has remained elusive to date, despite suggestive evidence of a potential increase in heating rates,” the researchers write in their paper.

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Beginning in the 1960s, Minière and colleagues estimated that the warming of our oceans was occurring at a steady rate of 0.15 watts per meter squared (W/m2) every decade. However, this has since increased to a rate of 0.91 W/m2.

The researchers warn that there is a lot of variation in their results and that the data is not as trustworthy for previous years, but their conclusions hold true for a number of different datasets.

According to a recent literature study, the ocean’s heating rate increased to 0.76 W/m2 between 2006 and 2020 from 0.48 W/m2 between 1971 and 2020.

“While there is increasing evidence of an acceleration of warming, it’s not necessarily ‘worse than we thought’ because scientists largely expected something like this,” Hausfather told The Washington Post.

There are a number of theories as to what could be causing this possible acceleration, ranging from natural variability combined with growing contributions from human activity, to changes in cloud cover and the startling decline in sea ice producing a feedback system.

“The long-term acceleration of Earth warming aligns qualitatively with the rise in CO2 concentrations and the decline in aerosol concentration during the same period,” Minière and colleagues explain. “But further investigations are necessary to properly attribute these changes.”
Whether or whether global warming is accelerating, the data we currently have indicates that we will soon surpass the 1.5 °C warming target.

The effects are already being felt, or at least seen. The excess energy in our atmosphere is causing climate systems to oscillate between extremes, akin to a tumbling spinning top right before it collapses, leading to catastrophic storms, fires, and floods.

“There won’t be any argument [by] late next spring, we’ll be way off the trend line,” Hansen believes.

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References:
1. Minière, A., von Schuckmann, K., Sallée, JB. et al. Robust acceleration of Earth system heating observed over the past six decades. Sci Rep 13, 22975 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-023-49353-1

2. Summary for policymakers. In Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (eds Masson-Delmotte, V. et al.) 3–32 https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009157896.001 (Cambridge University Press, 2021).

3. Pörtner, H.-O., Roberts, D.C., Poloczanska, E.S., Mintenbeck, K., Tignor, M., Alegría, A., Craig, M., Langsdorf, S., Löschke, S., Möller, V. & Okem A. (eds) IPCC AR6 Working Group 2: Summary for Policymakers. https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg2/chapter/summary-for-policymakers/

4. Richardson, M. T. Prospects for detecting accelerated global warming. Geophys. Res. Lett. 49, e2021GL095782 (2022).

5. Forster, P. et al. The Earth’s energy budget, climate feedbacks, and climate sensitivity. In Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (eds. Masson-Delmotte, V. et al.). 923–1054 https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009157896.001 (Cambridge University Press, 2021).

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