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Researchers Look At The Magnitude Of Future Warming

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Brett Smith for – Your Universe Online

Several new studies have posited new details about the future rate of climate change and the effects that global warming might have on the planet.

Climatologists from Stanford University and the Carnegie Institution recently published a research review in the journal Science that analyzed 27 different climate models and found that temperatures could exceed 3.6 degrees F over much of the Earth from 2046 to 2065 and 7.2 F from 2081 to 2100 if current trends continue.

“What is perhaps most noteworthy is the rate of change,” said study researcher Noah Diffenbaugh, an environmental scientist from Stanford. “For instance, the rapid global warming event that occurred some 55 million years ago was as large as these warming projections, but that event occurred over many thousands of years, not a mere century.”

The researchers noted that a variety of unpredictable factors will affect future climate change, such as future emissions of greenhouse gas and the carbon cycle.

However, if the average global temperature continues to rise as expected – another study from scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the University of California, Irvine has found that microbial activity in the soil may contribute to rising carbon dioxide levels.

“The microbial soil model is extremely important to understanding the balance of carbon in the soil versus the atmosphere and how carbon mass in soil is affected by these bacteria and fungi,” said the study’s senior author, Steven Allison, an associate professor of ecology at UC Irvine. “Our hope is that this new soil model will be applied to the global Earth system models to better predict overall climate change.”

While some scientists have predicted that soil might sequester additional carbon dioxide being pumped into the atmosphere, the UC Irvine experts found this not to be the case.

“In our microbial model, we directly simulate how the activity of organisms like bacteria and fungi control the storage and losses of soil carbon,” said Will Wieder, a postdoctoral scientist with NCAR in Boulder, Colo. “Now that we can more accurately measure what happens to soil as temperatures increase, we hope to study the potential effects of soil carbon fluctuations within a changing environment.”

Another study from scientists at the University of Georgia and the University of Calgary in Canada has found that climate change will facilitate the spread of disease among humans and other organisms. As proof of the study’s findings, the researchers cited an Arctic lungworm that affects muskoxen. Extended warm periods have allowed the parasite to spread over a longer period each summer.

“The Arctic is like a ‘canary in the global coal mine,’” said Susan Kutz of the University of Calgary who worked on the study. “Climate warming in the Arctic is occurring more rapidly than elsewhere, threatening the health and sustainability of Arctic plants and animals, which are adapted to a harsh and highly seasonal environment and are vulnerable to invasions by ‘southern’ species—both animals and parasites.”
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