Simple climate model consisting of a uniform ocean and atmosphere that respond thermodynamically, but not dynamically, to changes in radiative forcing.
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Forcings in the climate sense are external boundary conditions or inputs to a climate model. Obviously changes to the sun’s radiation are external, and so that is always a forcing. The same is true for changes to the Earth’s orbit (“Milankovitch cycles”). Things get a little more ambigous as you get closer to the surface. In models that do not contain a carbon cycle (and that is most of them), the level of CO2 is set externally, and so that can be considered a forcing too. However, in models that contain a carbon cycle, changes in CO2 concentrations will occur as a function of the climate itself and in changes in emissions from industrial activity. In that case, CO2 levels will be a feedback, and not a forcing. Almost all of the elements that make up the atmosphere can be considered feedbacks on some timescale, and so defining the forcing is really a function of what feedbacks you allow in the model and for what purpose you are using it. A good discussion of recent forcings can be found in Hansen et al (2002) and in Schmidt et al (2004).
Typically refers to a three-dimensional model of the global atmosphere used in climate modeling (often erroneously called “Global Climate Model”). This term often requires additional qualification (e.g., as to whether or not the atmosphere is fully coupled to an ocean–see ‘Atmosphere-Ocean General Circulation Model’).
The length scales that are resolved in these models is typically on the order of 100s of kilometers (i.e. features that size or smaller are not directly resolved). The timestep for the models (how often the fields are updated) is usually 20 minutes to an hour. Thus in any day there would be 24 to 72 loops of the main calculations.
The basic variables are the temperature, humidity, liquid/ice water content and atmospheric mass. The physics usually consists of advection, radiation calculations, surface fluxes (latent, sensible heat etc.), convection, turbulence and clouds. More elaborate Earth System models often contain tracers related to atmospheric chemistry and aerosols (including dust and sea salt).
Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) refer to any atmospheric gases that absorb long wave radiation (emitted from the surface), thereby causing the planet’s surface to be warmer than it would be otherwise. These gases include water vapour, CO2, CH4, N2O, many CFCs (chloro-fluro-carbons). Ozone (O3) as well as being a shortwave absorber (in the ultra-violet range) also has a small longwave greenhouse effect. Other components of the atmosphere also absorb longwave radition (specifically aerosols and clouds) and hence have a greenhouse effect while not being gases themselves.
Oxygen (O2) and nitrogen (N2) while being the dominant gases in the atmosphere do not have significant absorption lines in the relevant longwave range and so are not greenhouse gases.
Instrumental data describing large-scale surface temperature changes are only available for roughly the past 150 years. Estimates of surface temperature changes further back in time must therefore make use of the few long available instrumental records and natural archives or ‘climate proxy’ indicators, such as tree rings, corals, ice cores and lake sediments, and historical documents, to reconstruct patterns of past surface temperature change. Due to the paucity of data in the Southern Hemisphere, recent studies have emphasized the reconstruction of Northern Hemisphere (NH) mean, rather than global mean temperatures over roughly the past 1000 years.
Isotopes can be thought of as different ‘flavours’ of a particular element (such as oxygen or carbon), that are distinguished by the number of neutrons in their nucleus (and hence their atomic mass). Carbon for instance most commonly has a mass of 12 (written as 12C), but there are also a small fraction of carbon atoms with mass 13 and 14 (13C and 14C), similarly oxygen is normally 16O, but with small amounts of 17O and 18O. All of the isotopes of an element behave in similar way chemically. However, because the mass of each isotope is slightly different there are certain physical processes that will discriminate (or ‘fractionate’) between them. For instance, during evaporation of water, it is slightly easier for the lighter isotopes to escape from the liquid, and so water vapour generally has less 18O than the liquid water from which it came. Because of these physical effects, looking at the ratio of one isotope to another can often be very useful in tracing where these atoms came from.
Term originally introduced in the late 1930s by Matthes (1939) to describe a broad interval of the late Holocene during which significant glacial advances were observed. In the climatological literature the LIA has now come to be used to characterize a more recent, shorter recent interval from around A.D. 1300 to 1450 until A.D. 1850 to 1900 during which regional evidence in Europe and elsewhere suggest generally cold conditions. Variations in the literature abound with regard to the precise definition, and the term is often used by paleoclimatologists and glaciologists without formal dates attached. The attribution of the term at regional scales is complicated by significant regional variations in temperature changes due to the the influence of modes of climate variability such as the North Atlantic Oscillation and the El Nino/Southern Oscillation. Indeed, the utility of the term in describing past climate changes at regional [Read more…] about Little Ice Age (“LIA”)
Period of relative warmth in some regions of the Northern Hemisphere in comparison with the subsequent several centuries. Also referred to as the Medieval Warm Epoch (MWE). As with the ‘Little Ice Age’ (LIA), no well-defined precise date range exists. The dates A.D. 900–1300 cover most ranges generally used in the literature. Origin is difficult to track down, but it is believed to have been first used in the 1960s (probably by Lamb in 1965). As with the LIA, the attribution of the term at regional scales is complicated by significant regional variations in temperature changes, and the utility of the term in describing regional climate changes in past centuries has been questioned in the literature. As with the LIA, numerous myths can still be found in the literature with regard to the details of this climate period. These include the citation of the cultivation of vines in Medieval England, and the [Read more…] about Medieval Warm Period (“MWP”)
A Microwave Sounding Unit (“MSU”) is a device that has been installed on polar orbiting satellites to measure, from space, the intensity of microwave radiation emitted by earth’s atmosphere. Different “channels” of the MSU measure different frequencies of radiation which can, in turn, be related to temperature averages of the atmosphere over different vertical regions. Channel 2 measurements provide a vertically-weighted temperature estimate that emphasizes the mid-troposphere (with small contributions from the stratosphere), while Channel 4 largely measures temperatures in the lower stratosphere. Information from MSUs have been used to generate the “MSU Temperature Record“. More information on MSU can be found here.
This is a somewhat outdated term used to refer to a sub-interval of the Holocene period from 5000-7000 years ago during which it was once thought that the earth was warmer than today. We now know that conditions at this time were probably warmer than today, but only in summer and only in the extratropics of the Northern Hemisphere. This summer warming appears to have been due to astronomical factors that favoured warmer Northern summers, but colder Northern winters and colder tropics, than today (see Hewitt and Mitchell, 1998; Ganopolski et al, 1998). The best available evidence from recent peer-reviewed studies suggests that annual, global mean warmth was probably similar to pre-20th century warmth, but less than late 20th century warmth, at this time (see Kitoh and Murakami, 2002).