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

Citation:
Xie, SP, Kosaka Y, Okumura YM.  2016.  Distinct energy budgets for anthropogenic and natural changes during global warming hiatus. Nature Geoscience. 9:29-+.

Date Published:

2016/01

Keywords:

climate 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.

Notes:

n/a

Website

DOI:

10.1038/ngeo2581