Distinct energy budgets for anthropogenic and natural changes during global warming hiatus

Anomalies of surface temperature and sea-level pressure

Anomalies of surface temperature and sea-level pressure

TitleDistinct energy budgets for anthropogenic and natural changes during global warming hiatus
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsXie SP, Kosaka Y, Okumura Y.M
JournalNature Geoscience
Volume9
Pagination29-+
Date Published2016/01
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number1752-0894
Accession NumberWOS:000367200300011
Keywordsclimate models; decadal variability; enso; feedbacks; imbalance; pacific; system; temperature; upper-ocean
Abstract

The Earth's energy budget for the past four decades can now be closed(1), and it supports anthropogenic greenhouse forcing as the cause for climate warming. However, closure depends on invoking an unrealistically large increase in aerosol cooling(2) during the so-called global warming hiatus since the late 1990s (refs 3,4) that was due partly to tropical Pacific Ocean cooling(5-7). The difficulty with this closure lies in the assumption that the same climate feedback applies to both anthropogenic warming and natural cooling. Here we analyse climate model simulations with and without anthropogenic increases in greenhouse gas concentrations, and show that top-of-the-atmosphere radiation and global mean surface temperature are much less tightly coupled for natural decadal variability than for the greenhouse-gas-induced response, implying distinct climate feedback between anthropogenic warming and natural variability. In addition, we identify a phase difference between top-of-the-atmosphere radiation and global mean surface temperature such that ocean heat uptake tends to slow down during the surface warming hiatus. This result deviates from existing energy theory but we find that it is broadly consistent with observations. Our study highlights the importance of developing metrics that distinguish anthropogenic change from natural variations to attribute climate variability and to estimate climate sensitivity from observations.

DOI10.1038/ngeo2581
Short TitleNat. Geosci.
Impact: 

In summary, we have shown that anthropogenic warming and natural variability are governed by distinct relationships between GMT and TOA radiation. Whereas a linear relationship is well established for the forced response, the correlation between GMT and TOA radiation is low and phase shifted for natural variability on decadal and longer timescales. We proposed a revised energy theory that distinguishes forced change and natural variability.

Student Publication: 
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