Do Projected Changes in Climate Vary from Region to Region?

Published: 23rd November 2012 19:46Last Updated: 22nd July 2016 13:53
This material is extracted from the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) section of the Fourth Assessment Report of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Working Group 1 (see full reference below).  

Figure SPM.7 from the IPCC AR5 Summary for Policymakers (2014): Change in average surface temperature (a) and change in average precipitation (b) based on multi-model mean projections for 2081–2100 relative to 1986-2005 under the RCP2.6 (left) and RCP8.5 (right) scenarios. Stippling (i.e., dots) shows regions where the projected change is large compared to natural internal variability, and where at least 90% of models agree on the sign of change. Hatching (i.e., diagonal lines) shows regions where the projected change is less than one standard deviation of the natural internal variability.

Climate varies from region to region. This variation is driven by the uneven distribution of solar heating, the individual responses of the atmosphere, oceans and land surface, the interactions between these, and the physical characteristics of the regions. The perturbations of the atmospheric constituents that lead to global changes affect certain aspects of these complex interactions. Some human-induced factors that affect climate (‘forcings’) are global in nature, while others differ from one region to another. For example, carbon dioxide, which causes warming, is distributed evenly around the globe, regardless of where the emissions originate, whereas sulphate aerosols (small particles) that offset some of the warming tend to be regional in their distribution. Furthermore, the response to forcings is partly governed by feedback processes that may operate in different regions from those in which the forcing is greatest. Thus, the projected changes in climate will also vary from region to region.
 

Reference

IPCC, 2007: Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment, Report of the Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change [Solomon, S., D. Qin, M. Manning, Z. Chen, M. Marquis, K.B. Averyt, M.Tignor and H.L. Miller (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.

Thumbnail image credit: Left - Mellimage/Shutterstock.com, center - Montree Hanlue/Shutterstock.com. Taken from http://climate.nasa.gov/effects/

Further resources

For a more detailed explanation of the answer please see the original IPCC FAQ document at: http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg1/ar4-wg1-faqs.pdf