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Can we predict the effects of climate change on North Carolina over the next 50 years?

In general, the scientific community agrees that there is global warming, and warming is expected to continue for at least the next several decades. The magnitude of that warming is still of much debate. The overall global temperature average has increased, but there are local changes that are very different.

Local climate patterns vary greatly - some areas, especially in Arctic region, experience much more warming, while other areas have experienced no significant climate change, and other still have experienced some cooling.

The global climate forecast models that predict climate change over the next 50 years are tuned for the global signal -- they do a decent job of accurately capturing the observed global temperature signal for the past 100 years or so, so we think those same models may accurately predict the global signal for the next 50 years.

However, these global climate models do NOT do a good job of capturing local signals. For example, the global models do not accurately simulate temperatures in the mid-Atlantic over the past 100 years, so we would not expect them to make a good forecast for the next 50 years.

Given all this, we have little guidance as to what local temperature trends will be over the next 50 years. Continued research, refinement of the computer models, and increased computing power will help answer these questions during the coming decades.

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