Press release 2013/7 - Issued by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, UK

 

In recent decades there has been increased variability in yearly temperature records for large parts of Europe and North America, according to a study published online today (24 July 2013) in Nature.

The study was carried out by scientists from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, the University of East Anglia and the University of Exeter.

Lead author Dr Chris Huntingford from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology said, “Fluctuations in annual average temperatures have shown very substantial geographical alteration in recent decades. However, to our surprise, when considered across the globe, total variability has been relatively stable.”

Co-author Professor Phil Jones, from the University of East Anglia said, “We used globally-complete surface temperature data that has been constructed by merging observations and weather forecasts, and verified our findings against station temperature records”

The study concluded that regions of high variability have moved markedly over the last five decades, including to areas of high population in Europe and North America. Dr Huntingford added, “The movement of raised temperature variability to regions of high population may have contributed to the general perception that climate is becoming more volatile.”

The study also examined future projections by 17 climate model simulations.  Almost all predict that overall temperature fluctuations will actually decrease towards the end of this century, as greenhouse gas concentrations increase.

Co-author Professor Peter Cox, from the University of Exeter said, “We provide evidence that decreasing global temperature variability will be a consequence of major sea-ice loss in a warmer world.”  

Dr Huntingford added, “Our findings contradict the sometimes stated view that a warming world will automatically be one of more overall climatic variation.”

Technical note – The analysis looked at year-to-year variability in temperature at different geographical locations. This variability is occurring around general global warming trends. These trends were subtracted from the actual temperature measurements, and the remaining “anomalies” analyzed for changes over time and space.

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Notes for Editors 

For more information contact the CEH Press Office.

This research was supported by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, the Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences programme “Mathematical and Statistical Approaches to Climate Modelling and Prediction”, USDoE (Grant DE-SC0005689) and NERC (Grant NE/F005474/1).

Reference: Chris Huntingford, Philip D Jones, Valerie Livina, Timothy M Lenton and Peter M Cox 'No increase in global temperature variability despite changing regional patterns' will be published in Nature on 24 July 2013. The DOI for this paper will be 10.1038/nature12310

The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) is the UK's Centre of Excellence for integrated research in the land and freshwater ecosystems and their interaction with the atmosphere. CEH is part of the Natural Environment Research Council, employs more than 450 people at four major sites in England, Scotland and Wales, hosts over 150 PhD students, and has an overall budget of about £35m. CEH tackles complex environmental challenges to deliver practicable solutions so that future generations can benefit from a rich and healthy environment. You can follow the latest developments in CEH research via Twitter and our RSS news feed

About the University of Exeter - The Sunday Times University of the Year 2012-13, the University of Exeter is a Russell Group university and in the top one percent of institutions globally. It combines world-class research with very high levels of student satisfaction. Exeter has over 18,000 students and is ranked 7th in The Sunday Times University Guide, 10th in The Complete University Guide, 10th in the UK in The Times Good University Guide 2012 and 12th in the Guardian University Guide 2014. In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) 90% of the University’s research was rated as being at internationally recognised levels and 16 of its 31 subjects are ranked in the top 10, with 27 subjects ranked in the top 20. The University has invested strategically to deliver more than £350 million worth of new facilities across its campuses in the last few years; including landmark new student services centres - the Forum in Exeter and The Exchange in Cornwall - and world-class new facilities for Biosciences, the Business School and the Environment and Sustainability Institute. It has plans for another £330 million of investment between now and 2016. 

The University of East Anglia (UEA) was founded in 1963 and this year celebrates its 50th anniversary. It has played a significant role in advancing human understanding and in 2012 the Times Higher Education ranked UEA as one of the 10 best universities in the world under 50 years of age. The university has graduated more than 100,000 students, attracted to Norwich Research Park some of Britain's key research institutes and a major University Hospital, and made a powerful cultural, social and economic impact on the region. 

NERC is the UK's main agency for funding and managing world-class research, training and knowledge exchange in the environmental sciences. It coordinates some of the world's most exciting research projects, tackling major issues such as climate change, food security, environmental influences on human health, the genetic make-up of life on earth, and much more. NERC receives around £300m a year from the government's science budget, which it uses to fund research and training in universities and its own research centres. 

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