Using computer calculations and past data, climate scientists in Boulder peered into the future to the year 2061, looking at the potential temperatures of future summers.
The results were startling.
“In about 50 years, roughly 80-percent of the land surface – virtually every summer – is going to be as hot as the hottest on record,” said Flavio Lehner, a scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder.
Lehner is the lead author of a new NCAR study, which found that between the year 2061 and 2080, summers across large sections of the world -- including North America -- will have a 90 percent chance of seeing summer temperatures hotter than any on record so far.
“We were really focusing on regions, where people live, where agriculture takes place, where we expect hot summers to have an effect,” he said.
Climate scientists say greenhouse gas emissions would be the main reason behind the hotter summer temperatures. Here in Colorado -- which, in this study, is considered part of the Central U.S. – the data is less clear.
“You cannot say with certainty if any future summer is going to be hotter than the hottest on record,” Lehner said. “For other regions, you can say this is going to become virtually certain.”
Climate scientists said reducing greenhouse gas emissions around the world could help, by cutting the chance of seeing those hot temperatures in half. The research team came to that conclusion by running the NCAR-based Community Earth Model, by comparing models where greenhouse gas emissions remained the same versus a reduction.
The study was funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation and the Swiss National Science Foundation. The new study will be published in an upcoming special issue of the journal Climatic Change.