Abrupt Climate Change

Common Misconceptions about Abrupt Climate Change

Ocean and Climate Change Institute

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Several decades of scientific research have yielded significant advances in understanding the ocean's role in regulating Earth's climate. Recently, increased media coverage of climate science has also highlighted some common misunderstandings about abrupt climate change, its underlying mechanisms, and possible consequences for society. This summary covers some of the major points about abrupt climate change that are often misunderstood. We hope this digest provides a better understanding of the state of scientific knowledge so far.

Q. Is the planet warming?
A. Yes. Since records began around 1860, globally-averaged surface temperatures have been rising (see figure "Variations of the Earth's Surface Temperature"). Eleven of the warmest years on record have occurred since 1990, and the five warmest of all have occurred in the last seven years (in descending order: 2002, 1998, 2003, 2001, 1997). Because of these recent extremes, the pace at which average global temperatures have been rising, which amounted to about +0.6C over the past century, accelerated in the past two decades to an equivalent rate of +1.0C per century.

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