A team of researchers from the University of East Anglia (UEA) has developed a new method to reduce uncertainty in future climate change related to the stratosphere. The stratosphere is a very dry region of the atmosphere above the Earth’s surface. Increases in water vapor in this area could worsen climate change and slow down the recovery of the ozone layer, which protects life on Earth from harmful radiation. The team combined satellite observations with climate model data to narrow down the range of possible future water vapor levels. Their findings rule out extreme scenarios that suggested water vapor concentrations could increase by more than 25% per degree of global warming. The new approach represents a 50% reduction in uncertainty. The researchers used machine learning to analyze the satellite data and create a framework that combines scientific understanding and mathematical relationships. The results show that many climate model projections of large water vapor changes are inconsistent with observational evidence. The research suggests that while water vapor concentrations in the stratosphere are likely to increase with global warming, the large changes that could delay ozone recovery are highly unlikely. The study was funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council.
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