A NASA-funded climate study released Thursday said climate models that more accurately project relative humidity and cloud cover are more reliable in predicting the overall rate of change -- a revelation that, disturbingly, means the planet's changing climate is fulfilling scientists' most dire predictions.

In the study, published in the latest edition of the journal Science, the National Center for Atmospheric Research said when compared to data provided by cutting-edge NASA satellites, the top 16 climate models worldwide were most accurate when they tracked relative humidity instead of cloud cover, both of which have a profound impact on how climate fluctuates.

Unfortunately, the study said that models tracking relative humidity show climate change is following the most dangerous track in current projections.

"There is a striking relationship between how well climate models simulate relative humidity in key areas and how much warming they show in response to increasing carbon dioxide," scientist John Fasullo said in an advisory. "Given how fundamental these processes are to clouds and the overall global climate, our findings indicate that warming is likely to be on the high side of current projections."

Models predict the globe will warm between 3 and 8 degrees of warming on average over the next century, although some areas will be harder hit than others. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says these changes will reduce snowfall and ice cover, increase the acidity of the oceans, heighten the intensity of storms and cause sea levels to rise, making many populated coastal areas uninhabitable.

By 2040, the EPA's "higher emissions scenario" projects average temperatures between 4-7 degrees hotter than the baseline average climate from 1961-1979. In the longer term, the EPA warns that Americans can expect to face temperatures up to 11 degrees hotter than average by the century's end, leaving many parts of the country with temperatures over 90 degrees for nearly six months a year.

“If we continue with business as usual this century, we will drive to extinction 20 to 50 percent of the species on the planet,” leading NASA climate scientist James Hansen said in August. “We are pushing the system an order of magnitude faster than any natural changes of climate in the past.”


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