Researchers detect climate signals in global weather

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology can detect the fingerprints of global warming in daily weather observations at the global scale.

While it’s true that weather is not the same thing as climate, researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) have demonstrated that climate change can be detected in daily weather. The key is not to get sidetracked by local weather forecasts, which can mask long-term trends in global climate given their variability.

According to the researchers, the long-term warming trend – what the researchers call ‘climate signals’ – can be discerned in daily weather data, such as air temperature and humidity, provided that global spatial patterns are taken into account.

“Uncovering the climate change signal in daily weather conditions calls for a global perspective, not a regional one,” explains Sebastian Sippel, a postdoc student and lead author of a study recently published in Nature Climate Change.

In other words, record low temperatures in one part of the world doesn’t mean that global warming has suddenly stopped if it is simultaneously warmer than average in other regions. Rather, the deviation is cancelled out by the global trend.

Data science methods not only allow researchers to demonstrate the impact of humans on the climate, but they also show where in the world climate change is particularly clear and recognizable at an early stage.

“In the future, we should therefore be able to pick out human-induced patterns and trends in other more complex measurement parameters, such as precipitation, that are hard to detect using traditional statistics,” says ETH professor Reto Knutti.

Image credit: Clinton Naik via Unsplash

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