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Prof Contributes to International Climate Change Report

Findings Blame Humans for Global Warming

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The latest report released by the IPCC points to human activity as the dominant factor in global warming.

By Edwin L. Aguirre

An expert on climate variability and change, Assoc. Prof. Mathew Barlow is among the nearly 260 researchers worldwide who contributed to the recently released report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

The IPCC, established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme, is an internationally recognized scientific authority on climate change and a co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

The “Summary for Policymakers” recently released by the Working Group I of the IPCC in Stockholm, Sweden, concluded: “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”

“This statement is the strongest yet from the IPCC and reflects the continuing accumulation of scientific evidence and the best judgment of the scientific community,” says Barlow.

Barlow of the Department of Environmental, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences contributed to Chapter 14 of the report, entitled “Climate Phenomena and their Relevance for Future Regional Climate Change.”

“My part was to provide input into a specific geographic region — the Middle East/West Asia — using my experience in looking at historical climate variability in that region to assess and provide context for the climate model projections,” he explains.

Based on all available data and the consensus of the experts involved, warming is very likely to continue in the region, and it appears that the dry areas will become drier, although there is less confidence in the latter, he says.

“Increasing temperatures alone will likely have very negative impacts in the region — snowmelt is a major source of water in many parts of the region, and if the snow melts earlier or some of the snow turns to rain and accumulations decrease, water availability during the warm season will decrease, probably significantly,” he says. 
“Given the already-existing water stresses and the socio-political-economic issues in the region — which includes Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan — decreases in snowmelt, possibly with precipitation decreases on top of that, would have very negative impacts in the region, with possibly broader implications.”

In addition to conducting climate research, Barlow plays an active role in educating the UMass Lowell community and the public about the science of climate change and its potential future impacts. He is a member of the steering committee of University’s Climate Change Initiative. He is also an ardent supporter of the annual Climate Change Teach-In, organized by biology Assoc. Prof. Juliette Rooney-Varga. This year’s Teach-In will be held Oct. 17 in the Cumnock Hall auditorium on North Campus.