A new analysis by government scientists indicates that the planet’s climate is warming at an unprecedented rate, suggesting that the future impact of global warming may be more sudden and severe than previously predicted. The study, which will be published in the March 1 issue of the journal Geophysical Research Letters, found that the very high temperatures during 1997 and 1998 likely mark a “change point” at which the planet’s surface began to heat up faster than it had in previous decades. Study leader Tom Karl of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the current pace of temperature rise is consistent with a rate of 5.4 to 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit per century. In contrast, the average rate of warming from 1900 to 1997 was about 1.1 degrees.