Dr David Carlson, director of the World Climate Research Programme, has questioned whether models of future warming have failed to predict the high temperatures recorded this year because they are under-estimating how hot the world will get.
He was responding to news that the planet’s record-breaking temperatures every month of this year has taken scientists by surprise.
The first six months of this year averaged 1.3 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average, compared to the ambition agreed at the Paris climate summit in December to limit warming to as close to 1.5C as possible.
This news and Dr Carlson’s concerns were reported here by The Independent.
“What concerns me most is that we didn’t anticipate these temperature jumps,” Dr Carlson told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“We predicted moderate warmth for 2016, but nothing like the temperature rises we’ve seen.
“Massive temperature hikes, but also extreme events like floodings, have become the new normal.”
The WCRP was set up by the International Council for Science and the World Meteorological Organisation in 1980.
As The Independent reports, scientists have expressed concerns at a number of tipping points that could dramatically increase the rate of warming.
For example, the melting of ice at the poles reduces the amount of sunlight that is reflected with the darker water or land absorbing more of the sun’s energy and increasing the temperature.
Experts have warned the warming in the Arctic – far higher than the global average – could have a “possibly catastrophic” effect on the number of dangerous storms in the northern hemisphere.
Vast amounts of methane – a powerful greenhouse gas – that has been frozen for thousands of years in the tundra of Siberia has also started to be released as it melts. Methane has also been seen bubbling to the surface in the ocean off the northern coast of Russia following dramatic reductions in sea ice cover.
Dr Carlson said the question is shifting from ‘has the climate changed?’ to ‘by how much?’
“Statistically we need to get better at predicting not only how frequent and intense these events will be – but how long they will last.”
But world leaders making serious commitments to tackle climate change “are currently few and far between.”
In Britain, within days of taking office Prime Minister Theresa May decided to scrap the post of Energy and Climate Change Secretary from the Cabinet and the associated government department.
Climate change is now the responsibility of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Business Secretary Greg Clark.