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Texas Tech Scientist Participates in International Climate Change Study

The genie of global warming won’t go back into the bottle.

Written by John Davis

Katharine Hayhoe, research associate professor in the Department of Geosciences at Texas Tech University

Katharine Hayhoe, research associate professor in the Department of Geosciences at Texas Tech University

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a major international analysis Feb. 2 that points a finger at the role of human activities in causing the changes in Earth’s climate and global warming that has been observed over the past century. Hundreds of the world’s climate scientists from 130 countries participated in the analysis.

Katharine Hayhoe, a research associate professor in the Department of Geosciences at Texas Tech University, was one of the reviewers of the massive climate change study. Also, her climate change research is cited in the study.

“The IPCC found that global temperatures could increase by 3 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century,” Hayhoe said. “That’s if we reduce our emissions and have heat-trapping gasses such as carbon dioxide stabilized at about 25 percent above our present levels. If we don’t make any changes, however, we could expect a warming that is twice as large.”

Now that science has found that human consumption of fossil fuels most likely is  largely responsible for the 1 degree Fahrenheit global temperature increase during the past 100 years, Hayhoe says the next step should include finding different forms of energy with less impact on the environment.

“Our climate future is in our hands,” she said. “The choices we make today and in the next few decades will determine the quality of our children’s and our grandchildren’s lives.”

Hayhoe grabbed headlines at the beginning of October 2006 after her research found that the Northeast can expect hotter summers and shorter winters over the coming century, turning into what the South feels like today, if the nation continues to rely on fossil fuels for energy.

Temperature Graphic

Click to enlarge the illustration.

She led a team of 14 scientists for the year-long Northeastern climate change study, the results of which will appear in the upcoming March issue of the journal, Climate Dynamics. The research focused on nine states that ranged from Maine to New Jersey and across to Pennsylvania. The project was organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

At the end of October 2006, Hayhoe again garnered headlines with a global climate change study that used the IPCC’s latest climate models. Her research found that the summer heat waves, prolonged droughts and heavy rainfall events that have occurred across much of the U.S. and Europe during the past few years are a preview of what we can expect in the future thanks to climate change.

This research was a product of collaborations with three other researchers from the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. It appeared in the December issue of the journal Climatic Change.

Both of these studies found that decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels would result in less temperature change and smaller impacts from global warming during the coming century.