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Climate change caused by human activities is influencing atmospheric pressure, according to a new study. The research, published in this week's Nature, is the first report of a human-induced effect on global climate that does not rely on measurements of temperature.

Nathan Gillett of the University of Victoria in Canada and colleagues found that air pressure has decreased on average over the Arctic, Antarctic and North Pacific during the past five decades. In contrast, above the North Atlantic, southern Europe and North Africa, pressure has increased.

These changes in atmospheric pressure could have important consequences for future climate, owing to influences on patterns of rainfall, air temperatures, winds and storminess. This means that current climate predictions — which currently fail to take account of regional effects of air pressure changes — may be unreliable.

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Link to research paper in Nature