Over the next five years, the global temperature increase will not be as great as Britain's national weather service predicted a year ago, but Met Office forecasts global warming will continue, while a Canadian climate expert suggests extreme weather events will still become more common.
"The latest decadal prediction suggests that global temperatures over the next five years are likely to be a little lower than predicted from the previous prediction issued in December 2011," according to a press release Tuesday from Britain's Met Office. "However, both versions are consistent in predicting that we will continue to see near-record levels of global temperatures in the next few years."
The Met Office decadal forecasts are near-term climate predictions, designed to account for natural variability and climate change. Met Office has several units, including Britain's public weather service and the Hadley Centre, a climate research arm funded mainly by the British government's departments of Energy and Climate Change and Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Over the next five years, Met Office says, temperatures are predicted, in the 90% confidence range, to be between 0.28 and 0.59 degrees Celsius above the average between 1971 and 2000.
"I always look at these (five-year) temperature forecasts with very large grain of salt," Michael Pisaric, an assistant professor of geography at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont. told Canadian Underwriter. "I always look more at what the long-term trends are suggesting, or are showing, as opposed to these shorter time scales. I always cringe when they say 'Well, in the next five years it's going to be cooler than what they had predicted a year ago.'"
According to the Met Office, 1998 was the warmest year in its 160-year Hadley Centre global temperature record, with a temperature of 0.40°C above the long-term average.
"The forecast of continued global warming is largely driven by increasing levels of greenhouse gases," Met Office states.
This, Pisaric said, will likely lead to more extreme weather.
"As long as temperatures continue to rise, and maybe not at the level they have risen over the past years, but if they continue to rise, we're going to have more of these extreme weather events," he said.
"I think as long as our economic policies are they way they are, and we keep putting more carbon dioxide up into the atmosphere, the temperature's going to continue to rise, so we will see more of these events continue to happen. If you took a poll of a bunch of researchers, I think they would agree."
Pisaric’s areas of expertise include climate change and arctic ecosystems. He has co-authored several papers, on topics including the effects of thawing permafrost in the MacKenzie Delta uplands in northern Canada. He has a PhD from Queen’s University and his papers have been published in journals including Freshwater Biology and Environmental Science and Technology.
When Pisaric looked at Met Office graphs, he noticed a large difference, in some years, between what the models used by the Met Office had predicted and what actually happened.
"The models are certainly a lot better than what we had five or 10 years ago, so they are starting to get things right but when you're trying to make predictions for a decade out, you have to factor in things like El Nino and La Nina," Pisaric said. "We're getting better at predicting those but we still have a really, really long ways to go."