Research has found no increase in global temperature variability despite changing regional patterns.

Shifting patterns of temperature volatility in the climate system

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 in the journal Nature.

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

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 Peter Cox from Mathematics at 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.”  

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. 

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

Date: 24 July 2013

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