While it's useful to talk about the last century and half of climate change in global terms, doing so masks regional trends that sometimes differ greatly from the global average.
That the Arctic has warmed much more than the average is pretty well known. It turns out that parts of Europe have experienced far greater warming in the past 50 years as well. New analysis, published in Environmental Research Letters, shows that parts of the continent have seen four times the warming as has the planet as a whole, and that there are important regional variations to be considered.
Scientists from the University of Warwick have found that, temporally speaking, temperature changes can vary drastically from region to region. For example, in the region from southern England, across northern France, and into Denmark, the hottest 5 percent of days each summer have warmed most quickly. In many places these record hot days have shown temperature increases above 2°C.
But in southern France and Germany, the warming has come most in increased average and slightly above average hot days—the warming is more even throughout the calendar. Farther south, in Spain and central Italy, there's been warming across the board, though what's considered a cooler than average day has not changed much. In this region, temperatures have warmed above 2°C since the mid-twentieth century. The authors note that's more than four times the global average for the last 50 years.
Dr. David Stainforth, the report's lead author, said, "Changes in local climate pose challenges for decision-makers across society, not just when preparing for the climate of the future, but even when planning for the climate of today. We need to design buildings so they don't overheat, decide which are the best crops to plant, and even plan of variations in large-scale productivity."
In the United States, new record highs are significantly outpacing record lows, with nights not cooling down as much as they used to. Over time, the ratio of new record highs to record lows should be around 1:1, but for about a decade, the yearly ratio has been about two new record highs to each new record low—in some summer months this ratio has gone as high as 11:1.
The European trends continue when the sun goes down. The study found that across eastern France, western Germany, and Belgium, the coldest 5 percent of nights have warmed 2-2.5°C. Similarly large changes in temperature have happened for average and colder-than-average nights across Norway and Sweden. In the northeastern part of the UK, nights where the temperature falls below freezing have decreased by 10 percent in some places.
The research demonstrates that "climate change" is a better term for what's happening than the overly simplistic "global warming." More importantly, it shows that a global average temperature rise of 2°C means much different things in different places. This means that there aren't any blanket solutions to dealing with climate change, aside from trying to mitigate greenhouse emissions in the first place.