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Contact:
Clayton Berry
Phone: 314.977.7117
berrycl@slu.edu

September 21, 2004

Researchers Discover ‘Hole’ in Global Warming Predictions

Temperatures may not rise as high in the central United States

Figure 1a. Climate change in daily maximum temperature (K) in summer (June-July-August) simulated by RegCM2. The change is the difference between the future scenario decade (2040s) and current decade (1990s). Warming-hole averages in our analyses use the region delineated by the inner frame (35–40_N, 99–92_W).
SLU/ISU graphic

ST. LOUIS -- In the future, global warming might not be as severe in the central United States as in other parts of the country, according to scientists at Saint Louis University and Iowa State University (ISU).

Using a detailed regional climate model, these researchers estimate summertime daily maximum temperatures will not climb as high in a Midwestern region -- centered on the Missouri/Kansas border -- as anywhere else in the United States. The hole stretches for hundreds of miles and includes Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Oklahoma.

The findings are published in the current issue of Geophysical Research Letters. The article’s lead author is Zaitao Pan, Ph.D., an assistant professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at Saint Louis University. The researchers say the findings underscore the need to consider the impact of global warming on a region-by-region basis.

“The modeling showed that warming in the United States will be stronger in winter than summer and stronger at night than during the day,” Pan said. “But we found what looked to us like a ‘hole’ in the daytime warming in summer, which was a surprise.”

Pan collaborated with scientists at the Regional Climate Modeling Laboratory at ISU, where he earned his Ph.D. and conducted part of this research. After discovering the ‘hole’ in climate projections for the 2040s, Pan went back to carefully examine the observed maximum daily temperatures from 1975-2000 in a region that centers in eastern Kansas and touches parts of Missouri, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Iowa.

“We found that, in fact, this hole already has started to develop,” he said.

Ray Arritt, agronomy professor at ISU, said the existence of this “hole” in the warming makes sense.

“Our model tells us the future climate will have more rainfall and wetter soil, so more of the sun’s energy goes into evaporating water than heating the air,” he said. “Rainfall in the northern Great Plains already has increased by about 10 percent over the past few decades, which is consistent with our predictions.”

Team members caution that independent evaluations are needed to confirm this finding and to determine whether the ‘hole’ might be a temporary phenomenon that will disappear as global warming becomes more severe in the latter half of the 21st century.

In addition to Pan and Arritt, co-authors are Gene Takle, Bill Gutowski, Chris Anderson and Moti Segal of ISU.

Saint Louis University is a Jesuit, Catholic university ranked among the top research institutions in the nation. The University fosters the intellectual and character development of 11,000 students on campuses in St. Louis and Madrid, Spain. Founded in 1818, it is the oldest university west of the Mississippi and the second oldest Jesuit university in the United States. Through teaching, research, health care and community service, Saint Louis University is the place where knowledge touches lives. Learn more about SLU at www.slu.edu.

EDITORS NOTE: You may contact Zaitao Pan, Ph.D., at Saint Louis University directly at (314) 977-3114 or panz@eas.slu.edu; Gene Takle at Iowa State University at (515) 294-9871 or gstakle@iastate.edu.

Related Links:

Visit the Geophysical Research Letters Web site.


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