Global Climate: Current research and uncertainties in the climate system
Number of pages
Eds: Rodó X & Comín FA
Chapter abstract: Warming has been measured over most parts of the globe during the late 20th century. The instrumental data that record this warming provides only a limited perspective on either its nature or its cause. Because instrumental measurements cover mainly the period of industrialization, for example, they offer little information with which to distinguish between natural and anthropogenic effects. Furthermore, the instrumental record does not capture the spatial and temporal range of decadal to centennial scale variability which models and paleodata suggest is inherent to the climate system.
An understanding of these decadal to centennial scale modes of variability must be an inherent component of any attempt at climate prediction. Furthermore, the paleorecord provides numerous examples of abrupt shifts in climate, and the ecosystem responses to these. Because such changes are absent in the instrumental period, societal infrastructure has largely been built without consideration of such possibilities, leaving many societies highly vulnerable to the types of climate changes which we know have occurred in the past.