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Less fog leads to more heat for Europe

FEWER foggy, misty and hazy days help explain why Europe's temperatures have risen so fast over the past 30 years, a finding that could help predict future climate change, researchers said yesterday.

Clearer skies due to changing weather patterns and less air pollution have contributed on average to about 5 to 10 percent of the region's warmer temperatures during this period, said Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, a researcher at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute.

"The temperatures in Europe have been going up twice as fast as climate models predicted in the past decades. Less fog means more sunshine on the ground and hence higher temperatures," said Van Oldenborgh, who worked on the study.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of hundreds of scientists, has predicted global temperature increases this century of 1.8 to 4 degrees Celsius.

Governments and researchers around the world are exploring ways to try to slow rising temperatures that experts say will bring heat waves, droughts, more powerful storms, species extinctions and higher sea levels.

In Europe, however, temperatures have been outpacing climate models, and Van Oldenborgh and colleagues wanted to find out why that was occurring.

They collected data from 342 weather stations at airports across Europe and measured the levels of fog, mist and haze going back to 1976.

The number of days with visibility less than 2 kilometers are half of what they were 30 years ago, falling to an average 10 days from 20 days, the researchers reported in the journal Nature Geoscience.

"Climate is not simple and this is a new factor," Van Oldenborgh said.


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