The UK Met Office has produced the first comprehensive review of climate change since the 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
First the good news:
- According to the IPCC report, average ocean rises of up to 4 metres could occur by the end of the century. Further research has resulted in a projected likely rise of between 20 and 60 centimetres with the worst case being 2 metres.
- The IPCC reported a study by NASA which suggested that the Gulf Stream may be slowing down. The Gulf Stream brings warm water from the tropics and raises European temperatures by 5-10°C on average. If it stopped it could plunge North America and Western Europe into a mini ice age. Further analysis has shown that the observed changes are within the range of natural variability – so there is no evidence that the Guld Stream is slowing at this stage.
On the negative side, the IPCC report predicted that the Arctic would frequently be ice-free in summer between 2080 and 2100. The latest observations of thinning ice indicate that this could happen as early as the 2060s.
Overall, the new report concludes that "There is overwhelming agreement on the fundamentals – that our climate is changing and this represents a real and urgent problem."
In another attempt to clarify the climate change picture, the UK Met Office is heading a project to release much more detailed records of past temperatures. Until now, most climate change research has had to rely upon average daily, and even monthly, temperature records. The new project aims to release hourly temperature records from land-based weather stations around the world. The difficulty has been that most of these records are handwritten. The project plans to recruit members of the public to help compile the new set of data by converting hundreds of thousands of these handwritten records dating back to the early 1900s into a searchable database that will be available on the internet, probably on Google Earth.