A Multimodel Update on the Detection and Attribution of Global Surface Warming

Stone, Dáithí A.; Allen, Myles R.; Stott, Peter A.
February 2007
Journal of Climate;Feb2007, Vol. 20 Issue 3, p517
Academic Journal
This paper presents an update on the detection and attribution of global annual mean surface air temperature changes, using recently developed climate models. In particular, it applies a new methodology that permits the inclusion of many more general circulation models (GCMs) into the analysis, and it also includes more recent observations. This methodology involves fitting a series of energy balance models (EBMs) to the GCM output in order to estimate the temporal response patterns to the various forcings. Despite considerable spread in estimated EBM parameters, characteristics of model performance, such as the transient climate response, appear to be more constrained for each of the forcings. The resulting estimated response patterns are provided as input to the standard fingerprinting method used in previous studies. The estimated GCM responses to changes in greenhouse gases are detected in the observed record for all of the GCMs, and are generally found to be consistent with the observed changes; the same is generally true for the responses to changes in stratospheric aerosols from volcanic eruptions. GCM responses to changes in tropospheric sulfate aerosols and solar irradiance also appear consistent with the observed record, although the uncertainty is larger. Greenhouse gas and solar irradiance changes are found to have contributed to a best guess of ∼0.8 and ∼0.3 K warming over the 1901–2005 period, respectively, while sulfate aerosols have contributed a ∼0.4 K cooling. This analysis provides an observationally constrained estimate of future warming, which is found to be fairly robust across GCMs. By 2100, a warming of between about 1.5 and 4.5 K can be expected according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES) A1B emissions scenario. These results indicate an emerging constraint for global mean surface temperature responses to external forcings across GCMs, which is corroborated in the observed record. This implies that observationally constrained estimates of past warming and predictions of future warming are indeed becoming robust.


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