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Using Statistical Analysis to Predict Future North American Warming

May 16, 2012; 3:24 PM ET

I have always been a big fan of statistics, especially after I took that valuable course back in my college days at Rutgers University.

I saw this press release from the Ohio State University in regards to statisticians using statistical analysis of different climate models in order to estimate projections of temperature changes and certainty for the years 2021 to 2070 across North America.

From the Ohio State University Research News release.....

"One of the criticisms from climate-change skeptics is that different climate models give different results, so they argue that they don't know what to believe," says Noel Cressie, professor of statistics and director of Ohio State's Program in Spatial Statistics and Environmental Statistics. "We wanted to develop a way to determine the likelihood of different outcomes, and combine them into a consensus climate projection. We show that there are shared conclusions upon which scientists can agree with some certainty, and we are able to statistically quantify that certainty."

Using regional climate models' temperature values from 1971 to 2000 in addition to their projections for 2041 to 2070, the research team estimated that average land temperatures across North America will rise around 4.5 degrees F or 2.5 degrees C by 2070.

Through this analysis, the team also determined that there is a 97.5% probability that average temperatures will rise by at least 3.6 degrees F or 2.0 degrees C over a large area of North America by 2070. You can see those maps right here.

No surprise, the northeast part of North America in Canada is projected to see the greatest increase in temperatures over the winter with a rise of about 10.7 degrees F or 6.0 degrees C by 2070 as sea ice continues to diminish, allowing more of the sun's energy to be absorbed, instead of reflected back to space.

Also from the OSU release.......

Cressie cautioned that this first study is based on a combination of a small number of models. Nevertheless, he continued, the statistical computations are scalable to a larger number of models. The study shows that climate models can indeed be combined to achieve consensus, and the certainty of that consensus can be quantified.


Much more in depth discussion about this research can be found on the statisticians' website.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or


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