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NASA Dataset Projects Climate Change in the 21st Century

NASA global warming map NASA has released and opened a set of data to the public that shows how temperature and rainfall patterns may change through the year 2100 as a result of the ongoing rise in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and their accumulation in the atmosphere.

Containing a total 11 terabytes of data, the NASA climate change dataset includes projections of regional changes worldwide assuming varying levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) based on simulations produced by 21 climate models. Furthermore, projected changes of and actual historical climate data from 1950-2011 can be viewed at high-resolution on daily timescales and at a geographic resolution of 15.5 miles (25 km) – sufficient to view data and changes over time for individual cities and towns.

“NASA is in the business of taking what we’ve learned about our planet from space and creating new products that help us all safeguard our future,” NASA chief scientist Ellen Stofan was quoted in a news release. “With this new global dataset, people around the world have a valuable new tool to use in planning how to cope with a warming planet.”

Projecting climate change at regional levels

NASA’s climate change dataset was produced by NASA Earth Exchange (NEX), “a big-data research platform” housed within the NASA Advanced Supercomputing Center at its Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. It consists of and integrates actual measurements from around the world with data from climate simulations created by the international Fifth Coupled Model Intercomparison Project.

Observed Temperature Change in the Unites States

*1991-2012

NASA scientists used the raw data and 21 climate models to produce projections of climate change through the end of the century for two different scenarios of GHG emissions: a “’business as usual’ scenario based on current trends and an ‘extreme case’ with a significant increase in emissions.”

As NASA highlights in a news release, its just-released climate change dataset “will help scientists and planners conduct climate risk assessments to better understand local and global effects of hazards, such as severe drought, heat waves and losses in agricultural productivity.”

NASA scientists are using a similar set of climate projection data released by NEX in 2013 for the continental U.S. to quantify climate risks to the nation’s agriculture, forests, rivers and cities.

The new NASA climate change dataset is available here.

Cutting funding for NASA climate research

Release of the new climate change dataset comes amidst proposals by Republican Congressional leaders to cut funding for NASA’s earth sciences research. As Washington Post’s James Samenow reported on May 1 , the House Science, Space and Technology Committee chaired by leading climate change denier Texas Representative Lamar Smith has put forth proposed spending bill that would cut funding for NASA’s earth science programs by more than $300 million.

Another just-released climate research report from Carnegie Institution for Science researchers Ken Caldeira and Xiaochun Zhang illustrates the importance of such research. Published in the Journal of Geophysical Research Letters , the two researchers determined that the radiative forcing – induced climate warming – of CO2 emissions from combustion of fossil fuels exceeds the short-term warming in less than six months.

Moreover, Caldeira and Zhang found that the cumulative long-term climate warming effect of human CO2 emissions far exceeds the energy released as a result of combustion. “Over the long lifetime of CO2 in the atmosphere, the cumulative CO2-radiative forcing exceeds the amount of energy released upon combustion by factor of greater than 100,000,” they conclude.

“A key reason the differential is so large has to do with the notoriously long atmospheric lifetime of carbon dioxide,” the Washington Post’s Chris Mooney pointed out in a June 8 article. “The fossil fuel is burned in an instant, but some of the CO2 remains in the atmosphere for many thousands of years,” Zhang and Caldeira note in their paper.

Caldeira explains their climate research research and results in a YouTube video:

*Image credits: NASA

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