Estimates of climate system properties incorporating recent climate change

Libardoni, Alex G.; Forest, Chris E.; Sokolov, Andrei P.; Monier, Erwan

Historical time series of surface temperature and ocean heat content changes are commonly used metrics to diagnose climate change and estimate properties of the climate system. We show that recent trends, namely the slowing of surface temperature rise at the beginning of the 21st century and the acceleration of heat stored in the deep ocean, have a substantial impact on these estimates. Using the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Earth System Model (MESM), we vary three model parameters that influence the behavior of the climate system: effective climate sensitivity (ECS), the effective ocean diffusivity of heat anomalies by all mixing processes (inline-formulaKv), and the net anthropogenic aerosol forcing scaling factor. Each model run is compared to observed changes in decadal mean surface temperature anomalies and the trend in global mean ocean heat content change to derive a joint probability distribution function for the model parameters. Marginal distributions for individual parameters are found by integrating over the other two parameters. To investigate how the inclusion of recent temperature changes affects our estimates, we systematically include additional data by choosing periods that end in 1990, 2000, and 2010. We find that estimates of ECS increase in response to rising global surface temperatures when data beyond 1990 are included, but due to the slowdown of surface temperature rise in the early 21st century, estimates when using data up to 2000 are greater than when data up to 2010 are used. We also show that estimates of inline-formulaKv increase in response to the acceleration of heat stored in the ocean as data beyond 1990 are included. Further, we highlight how including spatial patterns of surface temperature change modifies the estimates. We show that including latitudinal structure in the climate change signal impacts properties with spatial dependence, namely the aerosol forcing pattern, more than properties defined for the global mean, climate sensitivity, and ocean diffusivity.

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Libardoni, Alex G. / Forest, Chris E. / Sokolov, Andrei P. / et al: Estimates of climate system properties incorporating recent climate change. 2018. Copernicus Publications.

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