January 28th 2005
New greenhouse predictions "Very scary"
A shocking new report into climate change suggests that the world's temperatures could rise by an average of up to 11C. in the next 100 years. With a massive decline in the coral species of the Great Barrier Reef likely as a result, Magnetic Island, with its reef-tourism based economy and vulnerability to cyclones, would become an early casualty. And while riding a bicycle and lobbying the government to support alternative energy are some of the options an energy-concerned individual can try, another intriguing method of helping the scientists in their forecasting and prediction research has emerged.
The report, which involved the networked support of 95,000 personal computers in over 150 countries, in a project called climateprediction.net created computer power far greater than any supercomputer and is regarded as the largest ever climate-change experiment. It found that Earth's temperature could increase by anywhere from 2C to 11C due to the impact of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.
The study was conducted by scientists from Oxford and other British centres of learning including the Hadley Centre for Climate Change and Research, London School of Economics, The Open University and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.
"If this is the case, it's very dramatic and very scary," Oxford's Chief Scientist for Climate Prediction and Research, David Stainforth, was reported in an article published by the Australian Newspaper.
The report suggests a major underestimation of the likely temperature increases in global warming with rises of between 2C and 11C now predicted.
"When we started out we didn't expect anything like this," David Stainforth, told The Australian.
Australian Institute of Marine Science scientist Dr Janice Lough told Magnetic Times that, although she had not yet read the report, the last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which AIMS contributes research findings to, predicted a global increase of between 2C and 6C over the next century.
"There are changes to climate now and whatever happens there will be impacts. The two coral bleachings which have occurred on the Great Barrier Reef (in the last decade) are undoubtedly related to climate change" she said.
Dr Lough also commented that at present the greatest warming is in polar regions. "The melting of sea ice changes reflectivity. The Greenland Ice sheet is melting faster than predicted. The 'gully effect' (where water running through ice increases the speed of melting) had also not been factored in."
The new findings will be contributing to the next IPCC report and doubles the predicted increase in global averages of the last IPCC in 2004. It should be noted however that ocean temperatures are different to atmospheric temperatures as water is slower to change temperature than air. In the last IPCC report the prediction for tropical ocean temperatures to rise in the next century were from 1C to 3C. AIMS research suggests that most corals are surviving at between 1C and 2C below their "thermal thresholds".
For readers who would like to assist in climateprediction.net the process is quite simple. The program can be downloaded and run on home computers in the background and when left on but not in use. There is little or no impact on the PC's workings but the contribution simply adds to the enormous number-crunching power required to make better predictions of the greenhouse effect.
To find out more about the predictions and download the program visit http://climateprediction.net/
Story: George Hirst