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Global Warming: The Need for More Research

Of course, important questions about climate change will always remain. It is the paradoxical nature of science to resolve some scientific uncertainties, and in the process, discover new unknowns.

Examples of areas for further research:

The role of water vapor and clouds: Scientists are intensively investigating the interactions of water vapor, clouds, oceans, and sea ice with the global climate system in order to refine their computer models and to better understand the impacts on these subsystems and their future role as sources and sinks of heat-trapping gas emissions.

Impacts on ecosystems: Scientists are also continuing to work to pin down the likely impacts of global warming on natural and managed ecosystems, since higher carbon dioxide levels, higher temperatures, and changed precipitation patterns exert interactive effects on these systems -- be they natural wetlands, cultivated crops, or forest communities.

Surprises: Some experts are also concerned about entirely unexpected changes, as well as so-called "low probability-high consequence" events, that is events and changes in the Earth system that seem very unlikely to happen given our current understanding, but that would—were they to occur—change the environment dramatically. Examples of such changes include the complete break-up of the West Antarctic ice sheet, or the slow-down or even shut-down of the deep-ocean circulation in the North Atlantic that transports warmer waters to Northern Europe.

Regional and local impacts: In general, scientists also need to do more work to find out more details about how the climate will change region by region and what the regional and local consequences of climate change will be.

Virtually all scientists agree that more research is needed to answer such questions and to improve scientific understanding of global warming. As research progresses, current climate projections will continue to be refined.

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