No Change in Variability

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Science  22 Feb 2002:
Vol. 295, Issue 5559, pp. 1429
DOI: 10.1126/science.295.5559.1429c

An increase in the solar forcing of Earth's climate system, caused primarily by the addition of anthropogenic greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, is thought to be responsible for much of the rise in global average temperature that has been observed during the past century. It is thought that warming might contribute secondarily to variation in components of climate such as heat waves, storminess, drought, Asian monsoon, El Niño, and patterns of rainfall, all of which could produce dramatically negative effects on agriculture, water availability, and human settlement.

In order to assess whether such increases in climate variability already have begun, Vinnikov and Robock present a technique to analyze climate trends based on determining the statistical distributions of climatic indices. They analyze historic observations of sea level, annual precipitation, drought severity, monsoonal rainfall, and the Southern Oscillation, and find that none of these quantities display significant trends in their variabilities during the past 100 years. — HJS

Geophys. Res. Lett.29, 10.1029/2001GL014025 (2002).

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