I know the focus of this board is on the Arctic, but I wish more people would take note of the dramatic changes that are occurring right here in America. Yet it's a common misbelief that climate change is on hiatus or not having the impact here that it is in the Arctic. The models play into this misbelief because they don't match up with what the real trends show. Part of the problem is everybody alive today was born into a globally-warmed world, so our perception of normal is already skewed. If we could invent a time machine to transport people back to 1810 (or even 1860 for that matter) when the earth's atmospheric concentration of CO2 was only very slightly elevated by humanity, this would eradicate a lot of the denialism or confusion about global warming. Because the records that survive from this era disclose that the climate from that era would be so starkly different from the one today.
Here in northeast Ohio, for instance, it no longer gets cold in the winter. In fact, since the 1960s, the annual extreme wintertime minimum temperature has been increasing on average 2 to 3 degrees every ten years! And this is not an urban heat island effect, these trends are also documented at rural and suburban sites. This winter, widely regarded as a cold winter in the popular opinion, media, etc. never even reached zero. Historically, temperatures below zero would occur on 5 to 10 days a winter, now they occur less than one time per winter and rapidly they are disappearing from existence.
What this suggests to me is that global warming is progressing much faster than is being realized when one looks solely at the global temperature data sets. It also suggests that there are other factors at work here. The scientific research often focuses on how the Great Lakes will be affected by climate change. There should be more focus on how the Great Lakes will affect global warming trends. Like in the Arctic, I suspect that the eventual loss of wintertime ice cover on the lakes will greatly increase global warming and that's what we're seeing in the loss of extreme cold in the region. By contrast, weather models erroneously suggest that summer temperatures will increase more than winter in this part of the world. The Lakes are rapidly warming -- faster than nearby land air temperatures, in fact, due to the change in ice behavior. Lake Erie is icing out several weeks earlier than it used to, and in recent years this has led to unprecedented spring and summer water temperatures. Eventually I think it will reach a tipping point where the water temperature gets extremely hot (90+) during the summer and stays warm (40+) all winter long. This will cause a dramatic change in the climate of the surrounding areas.
It's worth noting that if current trends persist (i.e. a 2-3 degree increase in extreme winter time minima ever ten years), the coldest temperature recorded wouldn't be much below 30 by the early 22nd century. Unfortunately, global warming is expected to increase in speed and intensity during that period due to increased emissions, so it may start to warm even more rapidly. I suspect the climate of Cleveland may resemble that of present-day Miami by 2100 or so (assuming an 800 ppm+ CO2 atmosphere). A more appropriate comparison would be the Eocene era climate of Wyoming, when fossil evidence shows crocodiles and palm trees dwelled in that state. The only reason even the hothouse Eocene era could support that was due to the presence of a large, prehistoric body of water which modified the continental climate of the region -- just like we'll see with the Great Lakes in the future!