Climate Change 2001:
Working Group I: The Scientific Basis
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Summary for Policymakers

Figure 1: Variations of the Earth’s surface temperature over the last 140 years and the last millennium.

(a) The Earth’s surface temperature is shown year by year (red bars) and approximately decade by decade (black line, a filtered annual curve suppressing fluctuations below near decadal
time-scales). There are uncertainties in the annual data (thin black whisker bars represent the 95% confidence range) due to data gaps, random instrumental errors and uncertainties, uncertainties in bias corrections in the ocean surface temperature data and also in adjustments for urbanisation over the land. Over both the last 140 years and 100 years, the best estimate is that the global average surface temperature has increased by 0.6 ± 0.2°C.

(b) Additionally, the year by year (blue curve) and 50 year average (black curve) variations of the average surface temperature of the Northern Hemisphere for the past 1000 years have been reconstructed from “proxy” data calibrated against thermometer data (see list of the main proxy data in the diagram). The 95% confidence range in the annual data is represented by the grey region. These uncertainties increase in more distant times and are always much larger than in the instrumental record due to the use of relatively sparse proxy data. Nevertheless the rate and duration of warming of the 20th century has been much greater than in any of the previous nine centuries. Similarly, it is likely7 that the 1990s have been the warmest decade and 1998 the warmest year of the millennium.
[Based upon (a) Chapter 2, Figure 2.7c and (b) Chapter 2, Figure 2.20]

The Third Assessment Report of Working Group I of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) builds upon past assessments and incorporates new results from the past five years of research on climate change1. Many hundreds of scientists2 from many countries participated in its preparation and review.

This Summary for Policymakers (SPM), which was approved by IPCC member governments in Shanghai in January 20013, describes the current state of understanding of the climate system and provides estimates of its projected future evolution and their uncertainties. Further details can be found in the underlying report, and the appended Source Information provides cross references to the report's chapters.

An increasing body of observations gives a collective picture of a warming world and other changes in the climate system.

Since the release of the Second Assessment Report (SAR4), additional data from new studies of current and palaeoclimates, improved analysis of data sets, more rigorous evaluation of their quality, and comparisons among data from different sources have led to greater understanding of climate change.

The global average surface temperature has increased over the 20th century by about 0.6°C.

Temperatures have risen during the past four decades in the lowest 8 kilometres of the atmosphere.

Snow cover and ice extent have decreased.

Global average sea level has risen and ocean heat content has increased.

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