Aug 23, 2019 | Global Documents |
1 Historical Overview of Climate Change Science Coordinating Lead Authors: Hervé Le Treut (France), Richard Somerville (USA) Lead Authors: Ulrich Cubasch (Germany), Yihui Ding (China), Cecilie Mauritzen (Norway), Abdalah Mokssit (Morocco), Thomas Peterson (USA), Michael Prather (USA) Contributing Authors: M. Allen (UK), I. Auer (Austria), J. Biercamp (Germany), C. Covey (USA), J.R. Fleming (USA), R. García-Herrera (Spain), P. Gleckler (USA), J. Haigh (UK), G.C. Hegerl (USA, Germany), K. Isaksen (Norway), J. Jones (Germany, UK), J. Luterbacher (Switzerland), M. MacCracken (USA), J.E. Penner (USA), C. Pfi ster (Switzerland), E. Roeckner (Germany), B. Santer (USA), F. Schott (Germany), F. Sirocko (Germany), A. Staniforth (UK), T.F. Stocker (Switzerland), R.J. Stouffer (USA), K.E. Taylor (USA), K.E. Trenberth (USA), A. Weisheimer (ECMWF, Germany), M. Widmann (Germany, UK) Review Editors: Alphonsus Baede (Netherlands), David Griggs (UK) This chapter should be cited as: Le Treut, H., R. Somerville, U. Cubasch, Y. Ding, C. Mauritzen, A. Mokssit, T. Peterson and M. Prather, 2007: Historical Overview of Climate Change. In: Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Solomon, S., D. Qin, M. Manning, Z. Chen, M. Marquis, K.B. Averyt, M. Tignor and H.L. Miller (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA. 94 Historical Overview of Climate Change Science Chapter 1 Table of Contents Executive Summary ...................................................... 95 1.1 Overview of the Chapter ................................... 95 1.2 The Nature of Earth Science ............................ 95 1.3 Examples of Progress in Detecting and Attributing Recent Climate Change ............ 100 1.3.1 The Human Fingerprint on Greenhouse Gases .................................................................. 100 1.3.2 Global Surface Temperature ................................ 100 1.3.3 Detection and Attribution .................................... 102 1.4 Examples of Progress in Understanding Climate Processes ............................................... 103 1.4.1 The Earth’s Greenhouse Effect ............................ 103 1.4.2 Past Climate Observations, Astronomical Theory and Abrupt Climate Changes .................. 106 1.4.3 Solar Variability and the Total Solar Irradiance ............................................................. 107 1.4.4 Biogeochemistry and Radiative Forcing .............. 108 1.4.5 Cryospheric Topics .............................................. 110 1.4.6 Ocean and Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere Dynamics ............................................................. 111 1.5 Examples of Progress in Modelling the Climate ................................................................... 112 1.5.1 Model Evolution and Model Hierarchies .............. 112 1.5.2 Model Clouds and Climate Sensitivity ................. 114 1.5.3 Coupled Models: Evolution, Use, Assessment ......................................................... 117 1.6 The IPCC Assessments of Climate Change and Uncertainties ................................................ 118 Box 1.1: Treatment of Uncertainties in the Working Group I Assessment ........................................... 120 1.7 Summary ............................................................... 121 Frequently Asked Questions FAQ 1.1: What Factors Determine Earth’s Climate? ................ 96 FAQ 1.2: What is the Relationship between Climate Change and Weather? ...................................................... 104 FAQ 1.3: What is the Greenhouse Effect? ............................. 115 References ........................................................................ 122 95 Chapter 1 Historical Overview of Climate Change Science Executive Summary Awareness and a partial understanding of most of the interactive processes in the Earth system that govern climate and climate change predate the IPCC, often by many decades. A deeper understanding and quantifi cation of these processes and their incorporation in climate models have progressed rapidly since the IPCC First Assessment Report in 1990. As climate science and the Earth’s climate have continued to evolve over recent decades, increasing evidence of anthropogenic infl uences on climate change has been found. Correspondingly, the IPCC has made increasingly more defi nitive statements about human impacts on climate. Debate has stimulated a wide variety of climate change research. The results of this research have refi ned but not signifi cantly redirected the main scientifi c conclusions from the sequence of IPCC assessments. 1.1 Overview of the Chapter To better understand the science assessed in this Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), it is helpful to review the long historical perspective that has led to the current state of climate change knowledge. This chapter starts by describing the fundamental nature of earth science. It then describes the history of climate change science using a wide-ranging subset of examples, and ends with a history of the IPCC. The concept of this chapter is new. There is no counterpart in previous IPCC assessment reports for an introductory chapter providing historical context for the remainder of the report. Here, a restricted set of topics has been selected to illustrate key accomplishments and challenges in climate change science. The topics have been chosen for their signifi cance to the IPCC task of assessing information relevant for understanding the risks of human-induced climate change, and also to illustrate the complex and uneven pace of scientifi c progress. In this chapter, the time frame under consideration stops with the publication of the Third Assessment Report (TAR; IPCC, 2001a). Developments subsequent to the TAR are described in the other chapters of this report, and we refer to these chapters throughout this fi rst chapter. 1.2 The Nature of Earth Science Science may be stimulated by argument and debate, but it generally advances through formulating hypotheses clearly and testing them objectively. This testing is the key to science. In fact, one philosopher of science insisted that to be genuinely scientifi c, a statement must be susceptible to testing that could potentially show it to be false (Popper, 1934). In practice, contemporary scientists usually submit their research fi ndings to the scrutiny of their peers, which includes disclosing the methods that they use, so their results can be checked through replication by other scientists. The insights and research results of individual scientists, even scientists of unquestioned genius, are thus confi rmed or rejected in the peer-reviewed literature by the combined efforts of many other scientists. It is not the belief or opinion of the scientists that is important, but rather the results of this testing. Indeed, when Albert Einstein was informed of the publication of a book entitled 100 Authors Against Einstein, he is said to have remarked, ‘If I were wrong, then one would have been enough!’ (Hawking, 1988); however, that one opposing scientist would have needed proof in the form of testable results. Thus science is inherently self-correcting; incorrect or incomplete scientifi c concepts ultimately do not survive repeated testing against observations of nature. Scientifi c theories are ways of explaining phenomena and providing insights that can be evaluated by comparison with physical reality. Each successful prediction adds to the weight of evidence supporting the theory, and any unsuccessful prediction demonstrates that the underlying theory is imperfect and requires improvement or abandonment. Sometimes, only certain kinds of questions tend to be asked about a scientifi c phenomenon until contradictions build to a point where a sudden change of paradigm takes place (Kuhn, 1996). At that point, an entire fi eld can be rapidly reconstructed under the new paradigm. Despite occasional major paradigm shifts, the majority of scientifi c insights, even unexpected insights, tend to emerge incrementally as a result of repeated attempts to test hypotheses as thoroughly as possible. Therefore, because almost every new advance is based on the research and understanding that has gone before, science is cumulative, with useful features retained and non-useful features abandoned. Active research scientists, throughout their careers, typically spend large fractions of their working time studying in depth what other scientists have done. Superfi cial or amateurish acquaintance with the current state of a scientifi c research topic is an obstacle to a scientist’s progress. Working scientists know that a day in the library can save a year in the laboratory. Even Sir Isaac Newton (1675) wrote that if he had ‘seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants’. Intellectual honesty and professional ethics call for scientists to acknowledge the work of predecessors and colleagues. The attributes of science briefl y described here can be used in assessing competing assertions about climate change. Can the statement under consideration, in principle, be proven false? Has it been rigorously tested? Did it appear in the peer-reviewed literature? Did it build on the existing research record where appropriate? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then less credence should be given to the assertion until it is tested and independently verifi ed. The IPCC assesses the scientifi c literature to create a report based on the best available science (Section 1.6). It must be acknowledged, however, that the IPCC also contributes to science by identifying the key uncertainties and by stimulating and coordinating targeted research to answer important climate change questions. 96 Historical Overview of Climate Change Science Chapter 1 Frequently Asked Question 1.1 What Factors Determine Earth’s Climate? The climate system is a complex, interactive system consisting of the atmosphere, land surface, snow and ice, oceans and other bodies of water, and living things. The atmospheric component of the climate system most obviously characterises climate; climate is often defi ned as ‘average weather’. Climate is usually described in terms of the mean and variability of temperature, precipitation and wind over a period of time, ranging from months to millions of years (the classical period is 30 years). The climate system evolves in time under the infl uence of its own internal dynamics and due to changes in external factors that affect climate (called ‘forcings’). External forcings include natural phenomena such as volcanic eruptions and solar variations, as well as human-induced changes in atmospheric composition. Solar radiation powers the climate system. There are three fundamental ways to change the radiation balance of the Earth: 1) by changing the incoming solar radiation (e.g., by changes in Earth’s orbit or in the Sun itself); 2) by changing the fraction of solar radiation that is refl ected (called ‘albedo’; e.g., by changes in cloud cover, atmospheric particles or vegetation); and 3) by altering the longwave radiation from Earth back towards space (e.g., by changing greenhouse gas concentra- tions). Climate, in turn, responds directly to such changes, as well as indirectly, through a variety of feedback mechanisms. The amount of energy reaching the top of Earth’s atmosphere each second on a surface area of one square metre facing the Sun during daytime is about 1,370 Watts, and the amount of en- ergy per square metre per second averaged over the entire planet is one-quarter of this (see Figure 1). About 30% of the sunlight that reaches the top of the atmosphere is refl ected back to space. Roughly two-thirds of this refl ectivity is due to clouds and small particles in the atmosphere known as ‘aerosols’. Light-coloured areas of Earth’s surface – mainly snow, ice and deserts – refl ect the remaining one-third of the sunlight. The most dramatic change in aerosol-produced refl ectivity comes when major volcanic erup- tions eject material very high into the atmosphere. Rain typically FAQ 1.1, Figure 1. Estimate of the Earth’s annual and global mean energy balance. Over the long term, the amount of incoming solar radiation absorbed by the Earth and atmosphere is balanced by the Earth and atmosphere releasing the same amount of outgoing longwave radiation. About half of the incoming solar radiation is absorbed by the Earth’s surface. This energy is transferred to the atmosphere by warming the air in contact with the surface (thermals), by evapotranspiration and by longwave radiation that is absorbed by clouds and greenhouse gases. The atmosphere in turn radiates longwave energy back to Earth as well as out to space. Source: Kiehl and Trenberth (1997). (continued) 97 Chapter 1 Historical Overview of Climate Change Science clears aerosols out of the atmosphere in a week or two, but when material from a violent volcanic eruption is projected far above the highest cloud, these aerosols typically infl uence the climate for about a year or two before falling into the troposphere and being carried to the surface by precipitation. Major volcanic erup- tions can thus cause a drop in mean global surface temperature of about half a degree celsius that can last for months or even years. Some man-made aerosols also signifi cantly refl ect sunlight. The energy that is not refl ected back to space is absorbed by the Earth’s surface and atmosphere. This amount is approximately 240 Watts per square metre (W m–2). To balance the incoming en- ergy, the Earth itself must radiate, on average, the same amount of energy back to space. The Earth does this by emitting outgoing longwave radiation. Everything on Earth emits longwave radia- tion continuously. That is the heat energy one feels radiating out from a fi re; the warmer an object, the more heat energy it radi- ates. To emit 240 W m–2, a surface would have to have a tem- perature of around –19°C. This is much colder than the conditions that actually exist at the Earth’s surface (the global mean surface temperature is about 14°C). Instead, the necessary –19°C is found at an altitude about 5 km above the surface. The reason the Earth’s surface is this warm is the presence of greenhouse gases, which act as a partial blanket for the longwave radiation coming from the surface. This blanketing is known as the natural greenhouse effect. The most important greenhouse gases are water vapour and carbon dioxide. The two most abun- dant constituents of the atmosphere – nitrogen and oxygen – have no such effect. Clouds, on the other hand, do exert a blanketing effect similar to that of the greenhouse gases; however, this effect is offset by their refl ectivity, such that on average, clouds tend to have a cooling effect on climate (although locally one can feel the warming effect: cloudy nights tend to remain warmer than clear nights because the clouds radiate longwave energy back down to the surface). Human activities intensify the blanketing effect through the release of greenhouse gases. For instance, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased by about 35% in the industrial era, and this increase is known to be due to hu- man activities, primarily the combustion of fossil fuels and re- moval of forests. Thus, humankind has dramatically altered the chemical composition of the global atmosphere with substantial implications for climate. Because the Earth is a sphere, more solar energy arrives for a given surface area in the tropics than at higher latitudes, where sunlight strikes the atmosphere at a lower angle. Energy is trans- ported from the equatorial areas to higher latitudes via atmo- spheric and oceanic circulations, including storm systems. Energy is also required to evaporate water from the sea or land surface, and this energy, called latent heat, is released when water vapour condenses in clouds (see Figure 1). Atmospheric circulation is pri- marily driven by the release of this latent heat. Atmospheric cir- culation in turn drives much of the ocean circulation through the action of winds on the surface waters of the ocean, and through changes in the ocean’s surface temperature and salinity through precipitation and evaporation. Due to the rotation of the Earth, the atmospheric circulation patterns tend to be more east-west than north-south. Embedded in the mid-latitude westerly winds are large-scale weather sys- tems that act to transport heat toward the poles. These weather systems are the familiar migrating low- and high-pressure sys- tems and their associated cold and warm fronts. Because of land- ocean temperature contrasts and obstacles such as mountain ranges and ice sheets, the circulation system’s planetary-scale atmospheric waves tend to be geographically anchored by conti- nents and mountains although their amplitude can change with time. Because of the wave patterns, a particularly cold winter over North America may be associated with a particularly warm winter elsewhere in the hemisphere. Changes in various aspects of the climate system, such as the size of ice sheets, the type and distribution of vegetation or the temperature of the atmosphere or ocean will infl uence the large-scale circulation features of the atmosphere and oceans. There are many feedback mechanisms in the climate system that can either amplify (‘positive feedback’) or diminish (‘negative feedback’) the effects of a change in climate forcing. For example, as rising concentrations of greenhouse gases warm Earth’s cli- mate, snow and ice begin to melt. This melting reveals darker land and water surfaces that were beneath the snow and ice, and these darker surfaces absorb more of the Sun’s heat, causing more warming, which causes more melting, and so on, in a self- reinforcing cycle. This feedback loop, known as the ‘ice-albedo feedback’, amplifi es the initial warming caused by rising levels of greenhouse gases. Detecting, understanding and accurately quantifying climate feedbacks have been the focus of a great deal of research by scientists unravelling the complexities of Earth’s climate. 98 Historical Overview of Climate Change Science Chapter 1 A characteristic of Earth sciences is that Earth scientists are unable to perform controlled experiments on the planet as a whole and then observe the results. In this sense, Earth science is similar to the disciplines of astronomy and cosmology that cannot conduct experiments on galaxies or the cosmos. This is an important consideration, because it is precisely such whole-Earth, system-scale experiments, incorporating the full complexity of interacting processes and feedbacks, that might ideally be required to fully verify or falsify climate change hypotheses (Schellnhuber et al., 2004). Nevertheless, countless empirical tests of numerous different hypotheses have built up a massive body of Earth science knowledge. This repeated testing has refi ned the understanding of numerous aspects of the climate system, from deep oceanic circulation to stratospheric chemistry. Sometimes a combination of observations and models can be used to test planetary-scale hypotheses. For example, the global cooling and drying of the atmosphere observed after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo (Section 8.6) provided key tests of particular aspects of global climate models (Hansen et al., 1992). Another example is provided by past IPCC projections of future climate change compared to current observations. Figure 1.1 reveals that the model projections of global average temperature from the First Assessment Report (FAR; IPCC, 1990) were higher than those from the Second Assessment Report (SAR; IPCC, 1996). Subsequent observations (Section 3.2) showed that the evolution of the actual climate system fell midway between the FAR and the SAR ‘best estimate’ projections and were within or near the upper range of projections from the TAR (IPCC, 2001a). Not all theories or early results are verifi ed by later analysis. In the mid-1970s, several articles about possible global cooling appeared in the popular press, primarily motivated by analyses indicating that Northern Hemisphere (NH) temperatures had decreased during the previous three decades (e.g., Gwynne, 1975). In the peer-reviewed literature, a paper by Bryson and Dittberner (1976) reported that increases in carbon dioxide (CO2) should be associated with a decrease in global temperatures. When challenged by Woronko (1977), Bryson and Dittberner (1977) explained that the cooling projected by their model was due to aerosols (small particles in the atmosphere) produced by the same combustion that caused the increase in CO2. However, because aerosols remain in the atmosphere only a short time compared to CO2, the results were not applicable for long-term climate change projections. This example of a prediction of global cooling is a classic illustration of the self- correcting nature of Earth science. The scientists involved were reputable researchers who followed the accepted paradigm of publishing in scientifi c journals, submitting their methods and results to the scrutiny of their peers (although the peer-review did not catch this problem), and responding to legitimate criticism. A recurring theme throughout this chapter is that climate science in recent decades has been characterised by the 0.0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.7 0.8 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997 1996 1995 1994 1993 1992 1991 1990 increasing rate of advancement of research in the fi eld and by the notable evolution of scientifi c methodology and tools, including the models and observations that support and enable the research. During the last four decades, the rate at which scientists have added to the body of knowledge of atmospheric and oceanic processes has accelerated dramatically. As scientists incrementally increase the totality of knowledge, they publish their results in peer-reviewed journals. Between 1965 and 1995, the number of articles published per year in atmospheric science journals tripled (Geerts, 1999). Focusing more narrowly, Stanhill (2001) found that the climate change science literature grew approximately exponentially with a doubling time of 11 years for the period 1951 to 1997. Furthermore, 95% of all the climate change science literature since 1834 was published after 1951. Because science is cumulative, this represents considerable growth in the knowledge of climate processes and in the complexity of climate research. An important example of this is the additional physics incorporated in climate models over the last several decades, as illustrated in Figure 1.2. As a result of the cumulative nature of science, climate science today is an interdisciplinary synthesis of countless tested and proven physical processes and principles painstakingly compiled and verifi ed over several centuries of detailed laboratory measurements, observational experiments and theoretical analyses; and is now far more wide-ranging and physically comprehensive than was the case only a few decades ago. Figure 1.1. Yearly global average surface temperature (Brohan et al., 2006), rela- tive to the mean 1961 to 1990 values, and as projected in the FAR (IPCC, 1990), SAR (IPCC, 1996) and TAR (IPCC, 2001a). The ‘best estimate’ model projections from the FAR and SAR are in solid lines with their range of estimated projections shown by the shaded areas. The TAR did not have ‘best estimate’ model projections but rather a range of projections. Annual mean observations (Section 3.2) are depicted by black circles and the thick black line shows decadal variations obtained by smoothing the time series using a 13-point fi lter. 99 Chapter 1 Historical Overview of Climate Change Science Figure 1.2. The complexity of climate models has increased over the last few decades. The additional physics incorporated in the models are shown pictorially by the different features of the modelled world. 100 Historical Overview of Climate Change Science Chapter 1 ice core measurements extended the CH4 abundance back 1 kyr, they showed a stable, relatively constant abundance of 700 ppb until the 19th century when a steady increase brought CH4 abundances to 1,745 ppb in 1998 (IPCC, 2001a) and 1,774 ppb in 2005 (Section 2.3.2). This peak abundance is much higher than the range of 400 to 700 ppb seen over the last half-million years of glacial-interglacial cycles, and the increase can be readily explained by anthropogenic emissions. For N2O the results are similar: the relative increase over the industrial era is smaller (15%), yet the 1998 abundance of 314 ppb (IPCC, 2001a), rising to 319 ppb in 2005 (Section 2.3.3), is also well above the 180- to-260 ppb range of glacial-interglacial cycles (Flückiger et al., 1999; see Sections 2.3, 6.2, 6.3, 6.4, 7.1 and 7.4) Several synthetic halocarbons (chlorofl uorocarbons (CFCs), hydrofl uorocarbons, perfl uorocarbons, halons and sulphur hexafl uoride) are greenhouse gases with large global warming potentials (GWPs; Section 2.10). The chemical industry has been producing these gases and they have been leaking into the atmosphere since about 1930. Lovelock (1971) fi rst measured CFC-11 (CFCl3) in the atmosphere, noting that it could serve as an artifi cial tracer, with its north-south gradient refl ecting the latitudinal distribution of anthropogenic emissions. Atmospheric abundances of all the synthetic halocarbons were increasing until the 1990s, when the abundance of halocarbons phased out under the Montreal Protocol began to fall (Montzka et al., 1999; Prinn et al., 2000). In the case of synthetic halocarbons (except perfl uoromethane), ice core research has shown that these compounds did not exist in ancient air (Langenfelds et al., 1996) and thus confi rms their industrial human origin (see Sections 2.3 and 7.1). At the time of the TAR scientists could say that the abundances of all the well-mixed greenhouse gases during the 1990s were greater than at any time during the last half-million years (Petit et al, 1999), and this record now extends back nearly one million years (Section 6.3). Given this daunting picture of increasing greenhouse gas abundances in the atmosphere, it is noteworthy that, for simpler challenges but still on a hemispheric or even global scale, humans have shown the ability to undo what they have done. Sulphate pollution in Greenland was reversed in the 1980s with the control of acid rain in North America and Europe (IPCC, 2001b), and CFC abundances are declining globally because of their phase-out undertaken to protect the ozone layer. 1.3.2 Global Surface Temperature Shortly after the invention of the thermometer in the early 1600s, efforts began to quantify and record the weather. The fi rst meteorological network was formed in northern Italy in 1653 (Kington, 1988) and reports of temperature observations were published in the earliest scientifi c journals (e.g., Wallis and Beale, 1669). By the latter part of the 19th century, systematic observations of the weather were being made in almost all inhabited areas of the world. Formal international coordination of meteorological observations from ships commenced in 1853 (Quetelet, 1854). 1.3 Examples of Progress in Detecting and Attributing Recent Climate Change 1.3.1 The Human Fingerprint on Greenhouse Gases The high-accuracy measurements of atmospheric CO2 concentration, initiated by Charles David Keeling in 1958, constitute the master time series documenting the changing composition of the atmosphere (Keeling, 1961, 1998). These data have iconic status in climate change science as evidence of the effect of human activities on the chemical composition of the global atmosphere (see FAQ 7.1). Keeling’s measurements on Mauna Loa in Hawaii provide a true measure of the global carbon cycle, an effectively continuous record of the burning of fossil fuel. They also maintain an accuracy and precision that allow scientists to separate fossil fuel emissions from those due to the natural annual cycle of the biosphere, demonstrating a long-term change in the seasonal exchange of CO2 between the atmosphere, biosphere and ocean. Later observations of parallel trends in the atmospheric abundances of the 13CO2 isotope (Francey and Farquhar, 1982) and molecular oxygen (O2) (Keeling and Shertz, 1992; Bender et al., 1996) uniquely identifi ed this rise in CO2 with fossil fuel burning (Sections 2.3, 7.1 and 7.3). To place the increase in CO2 abundance since the late 1950s in perspective, and to compare the magnitude of the anthropogenic increase with natural cycles in the past, a longer- term record of CO2 and other natural greenhouse gases is needed. These data came from analysis of the composition of air enclosed in bubbles in ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica. The initial measurements demonstrated that CO2 abundances were signifi cantly lower during the last ice age than over the last 10 kyr of the Holocene (Delmas et al., 1980; Berner et al., 1980; Neftel et al., 1982). From 10 kyr before present up to the year 1750, CO2 abundances stayed within the range 280 ± 20 ppm (Indermühle et al., 1999). During the industrial era, CO2 abundance rose roughly exponentially to 367 ppm in 1999 (Neftel et al., 1985; Etheridge et al., 1996; IPCC, 2001a) and to 379 ppm in 2005 (Section 2.3.1; see also Section 6.4). Direct atmospheric measurements since 1970 (Steele et al., 1996) have also detected the increasing atmospheric abundances of two other major greenhouse gases, methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). Methane abundances were initially increasing at a rate of about 1% yr–1 (Graedel and McRae, 1980; Fraser et al., 1981; Blake et al., 1982) but then slowed to an average increase of 0.4% yr–1 over the 1990s (Dlugokencky et al., 1998) with the possible stabilisation of CH4 abundance (Section 2.3.2). The increase in N2O abundance is smaller, about 0.25% yr–1, and more diffi cult to detect (Weiss, 1981; Khalil and Rasmussen, 1988). To go back in time, measurements were made from fi rn air trapped in snowpack dating back over 200 years, and these data show an accelerating rise in both CH4 and N2O into the 20th century (Machida et al., 1995; Battle et al., 1996). When 101 Chapter 1 Historical Overview of Climate Change Science Inspired by the paper Suggestions on a Uniform System of Meteorological Observations (Buys-Ballot, 1872), the International Meteorological Organization (IMO) was formed in 1873. Its successor, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), still works to promote and exchange standardised meteorological observations. Yet even with uniform observations, there are still four major obstacles to turning instrumental observations into accurate global time series: (1) access to the data in usable form; (2) quality control to remove or edit erroneous data points; (3) homogeneity assessments and adjustments where necessary to ensure the fi delity of the data; and (4) area-averaging in the presence of substantial gaps. Köppen (1873, 1880, 1881) was the fi rst scientist to overcome most of these obstacles in his quest to study the effect of changes in sunspots (Section 2.7). Much of his data came from Dove (1852), but wherever possible he used data directly from the original source, because Dove often lacked information about the observing methods. Köppen considered examination of the annual mean temperature to be an adequate technique for quality control of far distant stations. Using data from more than 100 stations, Köppen averaged annual observations into several major latitude belts and then area-averaged these into a near-global time series shown in Figure 1.3. Callendar (1938) produced the next global temperature time series expressly to investigate the infl uence of CO2 on temperature (Section 2.3). Callendar examined about 200 station records. Only a small portion of them were deemed defective, based on quality concerns determined by comparing differences with neighbouring stations or on homogeneity concerns based on station changes documented in the recorded metadata. After further removing two arctic stations because he had no compensating stations from the antarctic region, he created a global average using data from 147 stations. Most of Callendar’s data came from World Weather Records (WWR; Clayton, 1927). Initiated by a resolution at the 1923 IMO Conference, WWR was a monumental international undertaking producing a 1,196-page volume of monthly temperature, precipitation and pressure data from hundreds of stations around the world, some with data starting in the early 1800s. In the early 1960s, J. Wolbach had these data digitised (National Climatic Data Center, 2002). The WWR project continues today under the auspices of the WMO with the digital publication of decadal updates to the climate records for thousands of stations worldwide (National Climatic Data Center, 2005). Willett (1950) also used WWR as the main source of data for 129 stations that he used to create a global temperature time series going back to 1845. While the resolution that initiated WWR called for the publication of long and homogeneous records, Willett took this mandate one step further by carefully selecting a subset of stations with as continuous and homogeneous a record as possible from the most recent update of WWR, which included data through 1940. To avoid over-weighting certain areas such as Europe, only one record, the best available, was included from each 10° latitude and longitude square. Station monthly data were averaged into fi ve-year periods and then converted to anomalies with respect to the fi ve-year period 1935 to 1939. Each station’s anomaly was given equal weight to create the global time series. Callendar in turn created a new near-global temperature time series in 1961 and cited Willett (1950) as a guide for some of his improvements. Callendar (1961) evaluated 600 stations with about three-quarters of them passing his quality checks. Unbeknownst to Callendar, a former student of Willett, Mitchell (1963), in work fi rst presented in 1961, had created his own updated global temperature time series using slightly fewer than 200 stations and averaging the data into latitude bands. Landsberg and Mitchell (1961) compared Callendar’s results with Mitchell’s and stated that there was generally good agreement except in the data-sparse regions of the Southern Hemisphere. Figure 1.3. Published records of surface temperature change over large regions. Köppen (1881) tropics and temperate latitudes using land air temperature. Callendar (1938) global using land stations. Willett (1950) global using land stations. Callendar (1961) 60°N to 60°S using land stations. Mitchell (1963) global using land stations. Budyko (1969) Northern Hemisphere using land stations and ship reports. Jones et al. (1986a,b) global using land stations. Hansen and Lebedeff (1987) global using land stations. Brohan et al. (2006) global using land air temperature and sea surface temperature data is the longest of the currently updated global temperature time series (Section 3.2). All time series were smoothed using a 13-point fi lter. The Brohan et al. (2006) time series are anomalies from the 1961 to 1990 mean (°C). Each of the other time series was originally presented as anomalies from the mean temperature of a specifi c and differing base period. To make them comparable, the other time series have been adjusted to have the mean of their last 30 years identical to that same period in the Brohan et al. (2006) anomaly time series. 102 Historical Overview of Climate Change Science Chapter 1 Meanwhile, research in Russia was proceeding on a very different method to produce large-scale time series. Budyko (1969) used smoothed, hand-drawn maps of monthly temperature anomalies as a starting point. While restricted to analysis of the NH, this map-based approach not only allowed the inclusion of an increasing number of stations over time (e.g., 246 in 1881, 753 in 1913, 976 in 1940 and about 2,000 in 1960) but also the utilisation of data over the oceans (Robock, 1982). Increasing the number of stations utilised has been a continuing theme over the last several decades with considerable effort being spent digitising historical station data as well as addressing the continuing problem of acquiring up-to-date data, as there can be a long lag between making an observation and the data getting into global data sets. During the 1970s and 1980s, several teams produced global temperature time series. Advances especially worth noting during this period include the extended spatial interpolation and station averaging technique of Hansen and Lebedeff (1987) and the Jones et al. (1986a,b) painstaking assessment of homogeneity and adjustments to account for discontinuities in the record of each of the thousands of stations in a global data set. Since then, global and national data sets have been rigorously adjusted for homogeneity using a variety of statistical and metadata-based approaches (Peterson et al., 1998). One recurring homogeneity concern is potential urban heat island contamination in global temperature time series. This concern has been addressed in two ways. The fi rst is by adjusting the temperature of urban stations to account for assessed urban heat island effects (e.g., Karl et al., 1988; Hansen et al., 2001). The second is by performing analyses that, like Callendar (1938), indicate that the bias induced by urban heat islands in the global temperature time series is either minor or non- existent (Jones et al., 1990; Peterson et al., 1999). As the importance of ocean data became increasingly recognised, a major effort was initiated to seek out, digitise and quality-control historical archives of ocean data. This work has since grown into the International Comprehensive Ocean- Atmosphere Data Set (ICOADS; Worley et al., 2005), which has coordinated the acquisition, digitisation and synthesis of data ranging from transmissions by Japanese merchant ships to the logbooks of South African whaling boats. The amount of sea surface temperature (SST) and related data acquired continues to grow. As fundamental as the basic data work of ICOADS was, there have been two other major advances in SST data. The fi rst was adjusting the early observations to make them comparable to current observations (Section 3.2). Prior to 1940, the majority of SST observations were made from ships by hauling a bucket on deck fi lled with surface water and placing a thermometer in it. This ancient method eventually gave way to thermometers placed in engine cooling water inlets, which are typically located several metres below the ocean surface. Folland and Parker (1995) developed an adjustment model that accounted for heat loss from the buckets and that varied with bucket size and type, exposure to solar radiation, ambient wind speed and ship speed. They verifi ed their results using time series of night marine air temperature. This adjusted the early bucket observations upwards by a few tenths of a degree celsius. Most of the ship observations are taken in narrow shipping lanes, so the second advance has been increasing global coverage in a variety of ways. Direct improvement of coverage has been achieved by the internationally coordinated placement of drifting and moored buoys. The buoys began to be numerous enough to make signifi cant contributions to SST analyses in the mid-1980s (McPhaden et al., 1998) and have subsequently increased to more than 1,000 buoys transmitting data at any one time. Since 1982, satellite data, anchored to in situ observations, have contributed to near-global coverage (Reynolds and Smith, 1994). In addition, several different approaches have been used to interpolate and combine land and ocean observations into the current global temperature time series (Section 3.2). To place the current instrumental observations into a longer historical context requires the use of proxy data (Section 6.2). Figure 1.3 depicts several historical ‘global’ temperature time series, together with the longest of the current global temperature time series, that of Brohan et al. (2006; Section 3.2). While the data and the analysis techniques have changed over time, all the time series show a high degree of consistency since 1900. The differences caused by using alternate data sources and interpolation techniques increase when the data are sparser. This phenomenon is especially illustrated by the pre-1880 values of Willett’s (1950) time series. Willett noted that his data coverage remained fairly constant after 1885 but dropped off dramatically before that time to only 11 stations before 1850. The high degree of agreement between the time series resulting from these many different analyses increases the confi dence that the changes they are indicating are real. Despite the fact that many recent observations are automatic, the vast majority of data that go into global surface temperature calculations – over 400 million individual readings of thermometers at land stations and over 140 million individual in situ SST observations – have depended on the dedication of tens of thousands of individuals for well over a century. Climate science owes a great debt to the work of these individual weather observers as well as to international organisations such as the IMO, WMO and the Global Climate Observing System, which encourage the taking and sharing of high-quality meteorological observations. While modern researchers and their institutions put a great deal of time and effort into acquiring and adjusting the data to account for all known problems and biases, century-scale global temperature time series would not have been possible without the conscientious work of individuals and organisations worldwide dedicated to quantifying and documenting their local environment (Section 3.2). 1.3.3 Detection and Attribution Using knowledge of past climates to qualify the nature of ongoing changes has become a concern of growing importance during the last decades, as refl ected in the successive IPCC reports. While linked together at a technical level, detection and attribution have separate objectives. Detection of climate 103 Chapter 1 Historical Overview of Climate Change Science change is the process of demonstrating that climate has changed in some defi ned statistical sense, without providing a reason for that change. Attribution of causes of climate change is the process of establishing the most likely causes for the detected change with some defi ned level of confi dence. Using traditional approaches, unequivocal attribution would require controlled experimentation with our climate system. However, with no spare Earth with which to experiment, attribution of anthropogenic climate change must be pursued by: (a) detecting that the climate has changed (as defi ned above); (b) demonstrating that the detected change is consistent with computer model simulations of the climate change ‘signal’ that is calculated to occur in response to anthropogenic forcing; and (c) demonstrating that the detected change is not consistent with alternative, physically plausible explanations of recent climate change that exclude important anthropogenic forcings. Both detection and attribution rely on observational data and model output. In spite of the efforts described in Section 1.3.2, estimates of century-scale natural climate fl uctuations remain diffi cult to obtain directly from observations due to the relatively short length of most observational records and a lack of understanding of the full range and effects of the various and ongoing external infl uences. Model simulations with no changes in external forcing (e.g., no increases in atmospheric CO2 concentration) provide valuable information on the natural internal variability of the climate system on time scales of years to centuries. Attribution, on the other hand, requires output from model runs that incorporate historical estimates of changes in key anthropogenic and natural forcings, such as well-mixed greenhouse gases, volcanic aerosols and solar irradiance. These simulations can be performed with changes in a single forcing only (which helps to isolate the climate effect of that forcing), or with simultaneous changes in a whole suite of forcings. In the early years of detection and attribution research, the focus was on a single time series – the estimated global-mean changes in the Earth’s surface temperature. While it was not possible to detect anthropogenic warming in 1980, Madden and Ramanathan (1980) and Hansen et al. (1981) predicted it would be evident at least within the next two decades. A decade later, Wigley and Raper (1990) used a simple energy-balance climate model to show that the observed change in global-mean surface temperature from 1867 to 1982 could not be explained by natural internal variability. This fi nding was later confi rmed using variability estimates from more complex coupled ocean- atmosphere general circulation models (e.g., Stouffer et al., 1994). As the science of climate change progressed, detection and attribution research ventured into more sophisticated statistical analyses that examined complex patterns of climate change. Climate change patterns or ‘fi ngerprints’ were no longer limited to a single variable (temperature) or to the Earth’s surface. More recent detection and attribution work has made use of precipitation and global pressure patterns, and analysis of vertical profi les of temperature change in the ocean and atmosphere. Studies with multiple variables make it easier to address attribution issues. While two different climate forcings may yield similar changes in global mean temperature, it is highly unlikely that they will produce exactly the same ‘fi ngerprint’ (i.e., climate changes that are identical as a function of latitude, longitude, height, season and history over the 20th century). Such model-predicted fi ngerprints of anthropogenic climate change are clearly statistically identifi able in observed data. The common conclusion of a wide range of fi ngerprint studies conducted over the past 15 years is that observed climate changes cannot be explained by natural factors alone (Santer et al., 1995, 1996a,b,c; Hegerl et al., 1996, 1997, 2000; Hasselmann, 1997; Barnett et al., 1999; Tett et al., 1999; Stott et al., 2000). A substantial anthropogenic infl uence is required in order to best explain the observed changes. The evidence from this body of work strengthens the scientifi c case for a discernible human infl uence on global climate. 1.4 Examples of Progress in Understanding Climate Processes 1.4.1 The Earth’s Greenhouse Effect The realisation that Earth’s climate might be sensitive to the atmospheric concentrations of gases that create a greenhouse effect is more than a century old. Fleming (1998) and Weart (2003) provided an overview of the emerging science. In terms of the energy balance of the climate system, Edme Mariotte noted in 1681 that although the Sun’s light and heat easily pass through glass and other transparent materials, heat from other sources (chaleur de feu) does not. The ability to generate an artifi cial warming of the Earth’s surface was demonstrated in simple greenhouse experiments such as Horace Benedict de Saussure’s experiments in the 1760s using a ‘heliothermometer’ (panes of glass covering a thermometer in a darkened box) to provide an early analogy to the greenhouse effect. It was a conceptual leap to recognise that the air itself could also trap thermal radiation. In 1824, Joseph Fourier, citing Saussure, argued ‘the temperature [of the Earth] can be augmented by the interposition of the atmosphere, because heat in the state of light fi nds less resistance in penetrating the air, than in repassing into the air when converted into non-luminous heat’. In 1836, Pouillit followed up on Fourier’s ideas and argued ‘the atmospheric stratum…exercises a greater absorption upon the terrestrial than on the solar rays’. There was still no understanding of exactly what substance in the atmosphere was responsible for this absorption. In 1859, John Tyndall (1861) identifi ed through laboratory experiments the absorption of thermal radiation by complex molecules (as opposed to the primary bimolecular atmospheric constituents O2 and molecular nitrogen). He noted that changes in the amount of any of the radiatively active constituents of the atmosphere such as water (H2O) or CO2 could have produced ‘all the mutations of climate which the researches of geologists 104 Historical Overview of Climate Change Science Chapter 1 Frequently Asked Question 1.2 What is the Relationship between Climate Change and Weather? Climate is generally defi ned as average weather, and as such, climate change and weather are intertwined. Observations can show that there have been changes in weather, and it is the statis- tics of changes in weather over time that identify climate change. While weather and climat
Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.
- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is extremely likely (greater than 95 percent probability) to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over decades to millennia.
Earth-orbiting satellites and other technological advances have enabled scientists to see the big picture, collecting many different types of information about our planet and its climate on a global scale. This body of data, collected over many years, reveals the signals of a changing climate.
The heat-trapping nature of carbon dioxide and other gases was demonstrated in the mid-19th century. Their ability to affect the transfer of infrared energy through the atmosphere is the scientific basis of many instruments flown by NASA. There is no question that increased levels of greenhouse gases must cause the Earth to warm in response.
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