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UN Climate Change Report Includes Temperature And Rainfall Research From SU Scientists

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The landmark climate change report released by the United Nations Monday includes some research by a Syracuse University scientist. Earth and environmental sciences Assistant professor Dr. Tripti Bhattacharya studies ancient temperature and rainfall from molecules stored in rocks and sediment. She says the work cited in the report reconstructs past warm climates and monsoons to see how they respond to global climate change.

"What we found, looking at the past, is that monsoon rainfall, especially in places like the southwest U.S., is exquisitely sensitive to how much the globe is warming or cooling. That gives us a sense that rainfall in these regions will change a lot as we warm up the planet."

She says the data show that the climate models scientists use to forecast the future do a good job at roughly simulating the changes we’ve seen in the past. Bhattacharya says what’s notable about the UN report is how global warming is being tied to individual weather events, what’s known as attribution science.

"Climate science has known for a while that extreme events would become more likely. But now we're at the point where the science can tell you that this particular extreme event like heat waves in Australia or Hurricane Harvey happened because of climate change."

She says that also includes sea level rise around the world, and heat waves and extreme rainfall events and flooding right here in Central New York. For that reason, she says the biggest thing we can do is transition economies away from carbon and fossil-fuel intensive sources of energy to renewables.

"We have all of the solutions we already need to do this. It's just a matter of the political will implementing those solutions. We're talking a lot about infrastructure in this country these days. That's a big policy solution: Stop climate change by reducing our emissions."

While the UN report is alarming and has a doomsday feel to it, Bhattacharya says there is hope. Most Americans do support action on climate change. And, her earth science students are passionate about fixing the problem.

Assistant Professor Sam Tuttle's research was also included in the UN report.