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How Will Global Warming Affect Our Future?

Researchers are firing up their supercomputers to try to figure out what changes global warming will bring us in the future.Recent episodes of deadly heat in the United States and Europe, long dry spells across the US West, and heavy bursts of rain and snow across much of North America and Eurasia hint at longer-term changes to come. Much of the world will face an enhanced risk of heat waves, intense rain, and other weather extremes.

Researcher claudia Tebaldi says, "It's the extremes, not the averages, that cause the most damage to society and to many ecosystems." Many previous studies have looked at how average temperature or rainfall might change in the next century as greenhouse gases increase, but her new research looks more specifically at how weather extremes could change.

Her team's research predicts that by 2080-2099, the number of extremely warm nights and the length of heat waves will increase significantly worldwide. During heat waves, very warm nights are often associated with fatalities because people and buildings have less chance to cool down overnight.

Most areas north of the equator will see a significant jump in the number of days with heavy precipitation. This includes the northern tier of US states, Canada, and most of Europe.

The opposite extreme will hold true in the Western US: In that area, dry spells could lengthen significantly. This will also occur in southern Europe and Brazil. Dry spells are one of several factors in producing and intensifying droughts.

More rain AND more drought?is there any good news? The average growing season could increase significantly across most of North America and Eurasia, and we'll need it, because there will be parts of the world that desperately need food shipments.

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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