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Climate Variability & Change

Definition

The changes in the meteorlogic conditions (temperature, precipitation, wind) of a region.

Summary

Climate variability and change profoundly influence social and natural environments throughout the world, with consequent impacts on natural resources and industry that could be large and far-reaching. For example, seasonal to interannual climate fluctuations strongly affect the success of agriculture, the abundance of water resources, and the demand for energy, while long-term climate change might alter agricultural productivity, land and marine ecosystems, and the resources that these ecosystems supply.

Research Questions

1. To what extent can uncertainties in model projections due to climate system feedbacks be reduced?

2. How can predictions of climate variability and projections of climate change be improved, and what are the limits of their predictability?

3. What is the likelihood of abrupt changes in the climate system such as the collapse of the ocean thermohaline circulation, inception of a decades-long mega-drought, or rapid melting of the major ice sheets?

4. How are extreme events, such as droughts, floods, wildfires, heat waves, and hurricanes, related to climate variability and change?

5. How can information on climate variability and change be most efficiently developed, integrated with non-climatic knowledge, and communicated in order to best serve societal needs?

Source: Climate Change Science Program, and The Subcommittee Global Change Research. "Our Changing Planet: The U.S. Climate Change Science Program for Fiscal Year 2006." Washington: Climate Change Science Program Office, 2006.

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