Large-scale temperature patterns in past centuries: Implications for North American climate change

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Abstract

Recent climate reconstructions are analyzed specifically for insights into those patterns of climate variability in past centuries with greatest impact on the North American region. Regional variability, largely associated with the El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon, the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), and multidecadal patterns of natural variability, are found to mask the emergence of an anthropogenic temperature signal in North America. Substantial recent temperature anomalies may however indicate a possible recent emergence of this signal in the region. Multidecadal North Atlantic variability is likely to positively reinforce any anthropogenic warming over substantial parts of North America in coming decades. The recent magnitudes of El Nino events appear to be unprecedented over the past several centuries. These recent changes, if anthropogenic in nature, may outweigh the projection of larger-scale climate change patterns onto the region in a climate change scenario. The implications of such changes for North America, however, are not yet clear. These observations suggest caution in assessing regional climate change scenarios in North America without a detailed consideration of possible anthropogenic changes in climate patterns influencing the region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1247-1254
Number of pages8
JournalHuman and Ecological Risk Assessment (HERA)
Volume7
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2001

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All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecological Modeling
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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