Why some places warm faster than others

Article by Hazell Ransome.

By looking at average warming of the planet, we ignore the fact that the surface of the Earth doesn’t warm evenly [1,2]. The sea is cooler than the land mainly because a larger proportion of the Sun’s heat energy is used to evaporate water rather than being absorbed to increase the sea surface temperature [3,4].

This evaporation not only means that the sea warms less than the land but it also causes more heat to flow from the oceans to the land than from land to oceans, so the difference in temperature increases even further [5]! Evidence suggests 80-90% of warming on land is caused indirectly by heat moving from warming oceans [6]. Swipe to see this heat flow!

Therefore, many land areas are experiencing greater warming than the global average [7,8,9]. For example, when the global warming above pre industrial levels has an average value of 1.5°C or 4°C across the Earth, the average value across some land regions will be 2.25°C [7] or 7.5°C respectively [10]. You can see the difference in a chart if you swipe!

The Arctic will experience the most warming [11]. In fact it is already warming 2-3 times faster than the global average [7,9], resulting in knock-on climate effects in other areas of the world [12]. This is because when ice melts it exposes a darker surface which reflects less sunlight [7,11,13].


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