Uncertainty Requirements in Radiative Forcing of Climate Change

Schwartz, Stephen E.
November 2004
Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association (Air & Waste M;Nov2004, Vol. 54 Issue 11, p1351
Academic Journal
The continuing increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) makes it essential that climate sensitivity, the equilibrium change in global mean surface temperature that would result from a given radiative forcing, be quantified with known uncertainty. Present estimates are quite uncertain, 3 ± 1.5 K for doubling of CO2. Model studies examining climate response to forcing by greenhouse gases and aerosols exhibit large differences in sensitivities and imposed aerosol forcings that raise questions regarding claims of their having reproduced observed large-scale changes in surface temperature over the 20th century. Present uncertainty in forcing, caused largely by uncertainty in forcing by aerosols, precludes meaningful model evaluation by comparison with observed global temperature change or empirical determination of climate sensitivity. Uncertainty in aerosol forcing must be reduced at least three-fold for uncertainty in climate sensitivity to be meaningfully reduced and bounded.


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