Open Access Climate Web
The Fingerprint of Climate Change
Open Access Content

The climate change fingerprint includes what is happening now, as well as what scientists expect to see more of in the future, when it comes to climate change. 

When it comes to discussions of climate change, there is an overwhelming focus on average global temperature, the “stripes” image above being one example. But average global temperature is just one of many variables that scientists are tracking as part of the “fingerprint of climate change," and isn’t even the best for purposes   

Consideration of the climate change fingerprint as a whole provides a much more reliable picture of what’s really happening. Throughout the controversy over a “hiatus” in average global temperature increase, for example, virtually all of the other fingerprint elements were continuing to move in the expected direction. While any given fingerprint variable may be subject to random variation that might temporarily confuse a climate change signal, that won't happen simultaneously across all the variables in the climate fingerprint (or at least it would be very odd if it did!).

In the NOAA figure shown below, for example, all 10 of the fingerprint elements have been increasing or decreasing in the expected direction.  


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