New study projects when and where radically warmer temps will hit first

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U.S. Geological Survey/flickr

A new study, published in  Nature, predicts that within 35 years, or by 2047, the Earth’s average temperatures will be hotter than in the past 150 years.

The study, whose lead author is Dr. Camilo Mora of the University of Hawaii, analyzed data from 39 state-of-the-art climate models from 21 climate centers in 12 countries. Using this data, Mora and his team calculated the year when conditions will exceed historical bounds—meaning a certain area will no longer experience an annual temperature as low as the hottest year from 1860 to 2005. This technique can also be applied to cities in addition to regions and global averages.

The most alarming projection concerns the tropics, the first geographical region that will be hit by unprecedented climate extremes. This is especially worrisome because the tropics are home to a majority of the Earth’s species, as well as a number of impoverished, heavily populated nations with limited adaptation resources. Organisms in the tropics, which are used to a narrow range of climatic conditions, may not be able to adapt to rapid change. The study projects that coral reefs could be among the first areas to be damaged by rising temperatures. This could affect countless marine species and strain our seafood supply.

The study, which has a margin of error of plus or minus five years, predicts that the onset of radically warmer temperatures could be delayed—but only to 2069—if the world were to adopt limits on greenhouse gas emissions . Even ‘protected’ areas—formed by conservation efforts—will not be protected from shifts in climate conditions.

"The results shocked us,” Dr. Mora told a reporter at Science Daily. “Regardless of the scenario, changes will be coming soon. Within my generation, whatever climate we were used to will be a thing of the past."

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Ilissa Ocko

Ilissa Ocko

Ilissa Ocko is a High-Meadows Post-Doctoral Science Fellow at EDF.

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