The Greenhouse Effect in Central North America: If Not Now, When?

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Science  01 Mar 1991:
Vol. 251, Issue 4997, pp. 1058-1061
DOI: 10.1126/science.251.4997.1058


Climate models with enhanced greenhouse gas concentrations have projected temperature increases of 2° to 4°C, winter precipitation increases of up to 15 percent, and summer precipitation decreases of 5 to 10 percent in the central United States by the year 2030. An analysis of the climate record over the past 95 years for this region was undertaken in order to evaluate these projections. Results indicate that temperature has increased and precipitation decreased both during winter and summer, and that the ratio of winter-to-summer precipitation has decreased. The signs of some trends are consistent with the projections whereas others are not, but none of the changes is statistically significant except for maximum and minimum temperatures, which were not among the parameters predicted by the models. Statistical models indicate that the greenhouse winter and summer precipitation signal could have been masked by natural climate variability, whereas the increase in the ratio of winter-to-summer precipitation and the higher rates of temperature change probably should have already been detected. If the models are correct it will likely take at least another 40 years before statistically significant precipitation changes are detected and another decade or two to detect the projected changes of temperature.

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