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Recent changes in solar outputs and the global mean surface temperature. III. Analysis of contributions to global mean air surface temperature rise

By Michael Lockwood


A multivariate fit to the variation in global mean surface air temperature anomaly over the past half century is presented. The fit procedure allows for the effect of response time on the waveform, amplitude and lag of each radiative forcing input, and each is allowed to have its own time constant. It is shown that the contribution of solar variability to the temperature trend since 1987 is small and downward; the best estimate is -1.3% and the 2sigma confidence level sets the uncertainty range of -0.7 to -1.9%. The result is the same if one quantifies the solar variation using galactic cosmic ray fluxes (for which the analysis can be extended back to 1953) or the most accurate total solar irradiance data composite. The rise in the global mean air surface temperatures is predominantly associated with a linear increase that represents the combined effects of changes in anthropogenic well-mixed greenhouse gases and aerosols, although, in recent decades, there is also a considerable contribution by a relative lack of major volcanic eruptions. The best estimate is that the anthropogenic factors contribute 75% of the rise since 1987, with an uncertainty range (set by the 2sigma confidence level using an AR(1) noise model) of 49–160%; thus, the uncertainty is large, but we can state that at least half of the temperature trend comes from the linear term and that this term could explain the entire rise. The results are consistent with the intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) estimates of the changes in radiative forcing (given for 1961–1995) and are here combined with those estimates to find the response times, equilibrium climate sensitivities and pertinent heat capacities (i.e. the depth into the oceans to which a given radiative forcing variation penetrates) of the quasi-periodic (decadal-scale) input forcing variations. As shown by previous studies, the decadal-scale variations do not penetrate as deeply into the oceans as the longer term drifts and have shorter response times. Hence, conclusions about the response to century-scale forcing changes (and hence the associated equilibrium climate sensitivity and the temperature rise commitment) cannot be made from studies of the response to shorter period forcing changes

Publisher: Royal Society Publishing
Year: 2008
OAI identifier: oai:centaur.reading.ac.uk:7506
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