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Global Warming and Climate


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Global warming 1
Instrumental temperature record 23
Temperature record of the past 1000 years 33
Historical climatology 37
Paleoclimatology 40
Biofuel 48
Earth's energy budget 59
Earth's radiation balance 61
Fossil fuel 62
Global dimming 68
Global warming potential 77
Greenhouse effect 80
Greenhouse gas 85
Land use, land-use change and forestry 104
Radiative forcing 106
Urban heat island 109
Albedo 118
Bond event 124
Glacial period 126
Global cooling 127
Atlantic multidecadal oscillation 135
El Niño-Southern Oscillation 138
Indian Ocean Dipole 151
Pacific decadal oscillation 153
Milankovitch cycles 160
Orbital forcing 168
Solar variation 170
Volcano 182
Global climate model 198
History of climate change science 212
Scientific opinion on climate change 218
List of scientists opposing the mainstream scientific assessment of global warming 244
Effects of global warming 252
Abrupt climate change 266
Climate change and agriculture 272
Climate change and ecosystems 282
Drought 287
Economics of global warming 293
Effects of climate change on humans 312
Effects of climate change on marine mammals 318
Fisheries and climate change 320
Retreat of glaciers since 1850 324
Extinction risk from global warming 345
Ozone depletion 347
Ocean acidification 365
Effect of climate change on plant biodiversity 375
Climate change and poverty 380
Runaway climate change 385
Current sea level rise 389
Season creep 404
Shutdown of thermohaline circulation 408
Kyoto Protocol 412
2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference 428
G8 Climate Change Roundtable 446
Fossil-fuel phase-out 447
Emissions trading 458
Efficient energy use 478
Renewable energy 485
Nuclear energy 500
Carbon capture and storage 500
Geoengineering 520
Carbon sink 533
Climate change mitigation scenarios 545
Drought tolerance 548
Irrigation 549
Rainwater tank 560
Sustainable development 565
Weather control 576
Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change 584
Index of climate change articles 587

Article Sources and Contributors 590
Image Sources, Licenses and Contributors 605

Article Licenses
License 613
Global warming 1

Global warming

Line plot of global mean land-ocean temperature change from 1880-2010, relative to the 1951-1980 mean. The black line is the annual mean and
the red line is the 5-year running mean. The green bars show uncertainty estimates. Source: NASA GISS

Comparison of surface based (blue) and satellite based (red: UAH; green: RSS) records of global mean temperature change from 1979-2009. Linear
trends plotted since 1982.

The map shows the 10-year average (2000-2009) global mean temperature anomaly relative to the 1951-1980 mean. The largest temperature
increases are in the Arctic and the Antarctic Peninsula. Source: NASA Earth Observatory

Global warming is the increase in the average temperature of Earth's near-surface air and oceans since the mid-20th
century and its projected continuation. According to the 2007 Fourth Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), global surface temperature increased by 0.74 ± 0.18 °C (1.33 ± 0.32 °F) during the
20th century.[2] [A] Most of the observed temperature increase since the middle of the 20th century has been caused
by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases, which result from human activities such as the burning of fossil
fuel and deforestation.[3] [4] Global dimming, a phenomenon of increasing atmospheric concentrations of
human-made particulates, which affect cloud properties and block sunlight from reaching the surface, has partially
countered the effects of warming induced by greenhouse gases.
Climate model projections summarized in the 2007 IPCC report indicate that the global surface temperature is likely
to rise a further 1.1 to 6.4 °C (2.0 to 11.5 °F) during the 21st century.[2] The uncertainty in this estimate arises from
the use of models with differing sensitivity to greenhouse gas concentrations and the use of differing estimates of
future greenhouse gas emissions. An increase in global temperature will cause sea levels to rise and will change the
amount and pattern of precipitation, probably including expansion of subtropical deserts.[5] Warming is expected to
be strongest in the Arctic and would be associated with continuing retreat of glaciers, permafrost and sea ice. Other
likely effects of the warming include more frequent and intense precipitation events, extreme weather events, species
extinctions due to shifting isotherms, and changes in agricultural yields. Warming and related changes will vary from
region to region around the globe, though the nature of these regional changes is uncertain.[6] As a result of
Global warming 2

contemporary increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide, the oceans have become more acidic, a result that is
predicted to continue.[7] [8]
The scientific consensus is that anthropogenic global warming is occurring. This finding is recognized by the
national science academies of all the major industrialized countries and is not rejected by any scientific body of
national or international standing.[9] [10] [11] [B] Nevertheless, skepticism amongst the wider public remains. The
Kyoto Protocol is aimed at stabilizing greenhouse gas concentration to prevent a "dangerous anthropogenic
interference".[12] As of November 2009, 187 states had signed and ratified the protocol.[13] Proposed responses to
global warming include mitigation to reduce emissions, adaptation to the effects of global warming, and
geoengineering to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

Temperature changes
Evidence for warming of the climate system includes observed
increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread
melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level.[14] [15] [16]
The most common measure of global warming is the trend in
globally averaged temperature near the Earth's surface. Expressed as a
linear trend, this temperature rose by 0.74 ± 0.18 °C over the period
1906–2005. The rate of warming over the last half of that period was
almost double that for the period as a whole (0.13 ± 0.03 °C per
decade, versus 0.07 °C ± 0.02 °C per decade). The urban heat island
Two millennia of mean surface temperatures
effect is estimated to account for about 0.002 °C of warming per according to different reconstructions, each
decade since 1900.[18] Temperatures in the lower troposphere have smoothed on a decadal scale, with the
increased between 0.13 and 0.22 °C (0.22 and 0.4 °F) per decade since instrumemtal temperature record overlaid in
1979, according to satellite temperature measurements. Temperature is
believed to have been relatively stable over the one or two thousand
years before 1850, with regionally varying fluctuations such as the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age.[19]

Estimates by NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) and the National Climatic Data Center show that
2005 was the planet's warmest year since reliable, widespread instrumental measurements became available in the
late 19th century, exceeding the previous record set in 1998 by a few hundredths of a degree.[20] [21] Estimates
prepared by the World Meteorological Organization and the Climatic Research Unit show 2005 as the second
warmest year, behind 1998.[22] [23] Temperatures in 1998 were unusually warm because the strongest El Niño in the
past century occurred during that year.[24] Global temperature is subject to short-term fluctuations that overlay long
term trends and can temporarily mask them. The relative stability in temperature from 2002 to 2009 is consistent
with such an episode.[25] [26]
Temperature changes vary over the globe. Since 1979, land temperatures have increased about twice as fast as ocean
temperatures (0.25 °C per decade against 0.13 °C per decade).[27] Ocean temperatures increase more slowly than
land temperatures because of the larger effective heat capacity of the oceans and because the ocean loses more heat
by evaporation.[28] The Northern Hemisphere warms faster than the Southern Hemisphere because it has more land
and because it has extensive areas of seasonal snow and sea-ice cover subject to ice-albedo feedback. Although more
greenhouse gases are emitted in the Northern than Southern Hemisphere this does not contribute to the difference in
warming because the major greenhouse gases persist long enough to mix between hemispheres.[29]
The thermal inertia of the oceans and slow responses of other indirect effects mean that climate can take centuries or
longer to adjust to changes in forcing. Climate commitment studies indicate that even if greenhouse gases were
stabilized at 2000 levels, a further warming of about 0.5 °C (0.9 °F) would still occur.[30]
Global warming 3

External forcings
External forcing refers to processes external to the climate system (though not necessarily external to Earth) that
influence climate. Climate responds to several types of external forcing, such as radiative forcing due to changes in
atmospheric composition (mainly greenhouse gas concentrations), changes in solar luminosity, volcanic eruptions,
and variations in Earth's orbit around the Sun.[31] Attribution of recent climate change focuses on the first three types
of forcing. Orbital cycles vary slowly over tens of thousands of years and thus are too gradual to have caused the
temperature changes observed in the past century.

Greenhouse gases

Greenhouse effect schematic showing energy flows between space, the atmosphere, and earth's surface. Energy exchanges are expressed in watts
per square meter (W/m2).

This graph is known as the "Keeling Curve" and it shows the long-term increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations from
1958-2008. Monthly CO2 measurements display seasonal oscillations in an upward trend; each year's maximum occurs during the Northern
Hemisphere's late spring, and declines during its growing season as plants remove some atmospheric CO2.

The greenhouse effect is the process by which absorption and emission of infrared radiation by gases in the
atmosphere warm a planet's lower atmosphere and surface. It was proposed by Joseph Fourier in 1824 and was first
investigated quantitatively by Svante Arrhenius in 1896.[32]
Naturally occurring greenhouse gases have a mean warming effect of about 33 °C (59 °F).[33] [C] The major
greenhouse gases are water vapor, which causes about 36–70 percent of the greenhouse effect; carbon dioxide
(CO2), which causes 9–26 percent; methane (CH4), which causes 4–9 percent; and ozone (O3), which causes 3–7
percent.[34] [35] [36] Clouds also affect the radiation balance, but they are composed of liquid water or ice and so have
different effects on radiation from water vapor.
Human activity since the Industrial Revolution has increased the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere,
leading to increased radiative forcing from CO2, methane, tropospheric ozone, CFCs and nitrous oxide. The
concentrations of CO2 and methane have increased by 36% and 148% respectively since 1750.[37] These levels are
much higher than at any time during the last 800,000 years, the period for which reliable data has been extracted
from ice cores.[38] [39] [40] [41] Less direct geological evidence indicates that CO2 values higher than this were last
seen about 20 million years ago.[42] Fossil fuel burning has produced about three-quarters of the increase in CO2
from human activity over the past 20 years. The rest of this increase is caused mostly by changes in land-use,
particularly deforestation.[43]
Over the last three decades of the 20th century, GDP per capita and population growth were the main drivers of
increases in greenhouse gas emissions.[44] CO2 emissions are continuing to rise due to the burning of fossil fuels and
Global warming 4

land-use change.[45] [46] :71 Emissions scenarios, estimates of changes in future emission levels of greenhouse gases,
have been projected that depend upon uncertain economic, sociological, technological, and natural developments.[47]
In most scenarios, emissions continue to rise over the century, while in a few, emissions are reduced.[48] [49] These
emission scenarios, combined with carbon cycle modelling, have been used to produce estimates of how atmospheric
concentrations of greenhouse gases will change in the future. Using the six IPCC SRES "marker" scenarios, models
suggest that by the year 2100, the atmospheric concentration of CO2 could range between 541 and 970 ppm.[50] This
is an increase of 90-250% above the concentration in the year 1750. Fossil fuel reserves are sufficient to reach these
levels and continue emissions past 2100 if coal, oil sands or methane clathrates are extensively exploited.[51]
The popular media and the public often confuse global warming with the ozone hole, i.e., the destruction of
stratospheric ozone by chlorofluorocarbons.[52] [53] Although there are a few areas of linkage, the relationship
between the two is not strong. Reduced stratospheric ozone has had a slight cooling influence on surface
temperatures, while increased tropospheric ozone has had a somewhat larger warming effect.[54]

Particulates and soot

Global dimming, a gradual reduction in the amount of global direct
irradiance at the Earth's surface, has partially counteracted global
warming from 1960 to the present.[55] The main cause of this dimming
is particulates produced by volcanoes and pollutants, which exerts a
cooling effect by increasing the reflection of incoming sunlight. The
effects of the products of fossil fuel combustion—CO2 and
aerosols—have largely offset one another in recent decades, so that net
warming has been due to the increase in non-CO2 greenhouse gases
such as methane.[56] Radiative forcing due to particulates is temporally
Ship tracks over the Atlantic Ocean on the east
limited due to wet deposition which causes them to have an
coast of the United States. The climatic impacts
from particulate forcing could have a large effect atmospheric lifetime of one week. Carbon dioxide has a lifetime of a
on climate through the indirect effect. century or more, and as such, changes in particulate concentrations will
only delay climate changes due to carbon dioxide.[57]

In addition to their direct effect by scattering and absorbing solar radiation, particulates have indirect effects on the
radiation budget.[58] Sulfates act as cloud condensation nuclei and thus lead to clouds that have more and smaller
cloud droplets. These clouds reflect solar radiation more efficiently than clouds with fewer and larger droplets,
known as the Twomey effect.[59] This effect also causes droplets to be of more uniform size, which reduces growth
of raindrops and makes the cloud more reflective to incoming sunlight, known as the Albrecht effect.[60] Indirect
effects are most noticeable in marine stratiform clouds, and have very little radiative effect on convective clouds.
Indirect effects of particulates represent the largest uncertainty in radiative forcing.[61]

Soot may cool or warm the surface, depending on whether it is airborne or deposited. Atmospheric soot directly
absorb solar radiation, which heats the atmosphere and cools the surface. In isolated areas with high soot production,
such as rural India, as much as 50% of surface warming due to greenhouse gases may be masked by atmospheric
brown clouds.[62] When deposited, especially on glaciers or on ice in arctic regions, the lower surface albedo can
also directly heat the surface.[63] The influences of particulates, including black carbon, are most pronounced in the
tropics and sub-tropics, particularly in Asia, while the effects of greenhouse gases are dominant in the extratropics
and southern hemisphere.[64]
Global warming 5

Solar variation
Variations in solar output have been the cause of past climate
changes.[65] The effect of changes in solar forcing in recent decades is
uncertain, but small, with some studies showing a slight cooling
effect,[66] while others studies suggest a slight warming effect.[31] [67]
[68] [69]

Greenhouse gases and solar forcing affect temperatures in different

ways. While both increased solar activity and increased greenhouse
gases are expected to warm the troposphere, an increase in solar
Total Solar Irradiance measured by satellite from
activity should warm the stratosphere while an increase in greenhouse 1979-2006.
gases should cool the stratosphere.[31] Observations show that
temperatures in the stratosphere have been cooling since 1979, when satellite measurements became available.
Radiosonde (weather balloon) data from the pre-satellite era show cooling since 1958, though there is greater
uncertainty in the early radiosonde record.[70]

A related hypothesis, proposed by Henrik Svensmark, is that magnetic activity of the sun deflects cosmic rays that
may influence the generation of cloud condensation nuclei and thereby affect the climate.[71] Other research has
found no relation between warming in recent decades and cosmic rays.[72] [73] The influence of cosmic rays on cloud
cover is about a factor of 100 lower than needed to explain the observed changes in clouds or to be a significant
contributor to present-day climate change.[74]

Feedback is a process in which changing one quantity changes a second quantity, and the change in the second
quantity in turn changes the first. Positive feedback increases the change in the first quantity while negative feedback
reduces it. Feedback is important in the study of global warming because it may amplify or diminish the effect of a
particular process. The main positive feedback in global warming is the tendency of warming to increase the amount
of water vapor in the atmosphere, a significant greenhouse gas. The main negative feedback is radiative cooling,
which increases as the fourth power of temperature; the amount of heat radiated from the Earth into space increases
with the temperature of Earth's surface and atmosphere. Imperfect understanding of feedbacks is a major cause of
uncertainty and concern about global warming. A wide range of potential feedback process exist, such as Arctic
methane release and ice-albedo feedback. Consequentially, potential tipping points may exist, which may have the
potential to cause abrupt climate change.[75]

Climate models

Calculations of global warming prepared in or before 2001 from a range of climate models under the SRES A2 emissions scenario, which assumes
no action is taken to reduce emissions and regionally divided economic development.
Global warming 6

The geographic distribution of surface warming during the 21st century calculated by the HadCM3 climate model if a business as usual scenario is
assumed for economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions. In this figure, the globally averaged warming corresponds to 3.0 °C (5.4 °F).

The main tools for projecting future climate changes are mathematical models based on physical principles including
fluid dynamics, thermodynamics and radiative transfer. Although they attempt to include as many processes as
possible, simplifications of the actual climate system are inevitable because of the constraints of available computer
power and limitations in knowledge of the climate system. All modern climate models are in fact combinations of
models for different parts of the Earth. These include an atmospheric model for air movement, temperature, clouds,
and other atmospheric properties; an ocean model that predicts temperature, salt content, and circulation of ocean
waters; models for ice cover on land and sea; and a model of heat and moisture transfer from soil and vegetation to
the atmosphere. Some models also include treatments of chemical and biological processes.[76] Warming due to
increasing levels of greenhouse gases is not an assumption of the models; rather, it is an end result from the
interaction of greenhouse gases with radiative transfer and other physical processes.[77] Although much of the
variation in model outcomes depends on the greenhouse gas emissions used as inputs, the temperature effect of a
specific greenhouse gas concentration (climate sensitivity) varies depending on the model used. The representation
of clouds is one of the main sources of uncertainty in present-generation models.[78]
Global climate model projections of future climate most often have used estimates of greenhouse gas emissions from
the IPCC Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES). In addition to human-caused emissions, some models also
include a simulation of the carbon cycle; this generally shows a positive feedback, though this response is uncertain.
Some observational studies also show a positive feedback.[79] [80] [81] Including uncertainties in future greenhouse
gas concentrations and climate sensitivity, the IPCC anticipates a warming of 1.1 °C to 6.4 °C (2.0 °F to 11.5 °F) by
the end of the 21st century, relative to 1980–1999.[2]
Models are also used to help investigate the causes of recent climate change by comparing the observed changes to
those that the models project from various natural and human-derived causes. Although these models do not
unambiguously attribute the warming that occurred from approximately 1910 to 1945 to either natural variation or
human effects, they do indicate that the warming since 1970 is dominated by man-made greenhouse gas
The physical realism of models is tested by examining their ability to simulate current or past climates.[82] Current
climate models produce a good match to observations of global temperature changes over the last century, but do not
simulate all aspects of climate.[43] Not all effects of global warming are accurately predicted by the climate models
used by the IPCC. Observed Arctic shrinkage has been faster than that predicted.[83] Precipitation increased
proportional to atmospheric humidity, and hence significantly faster than current global climate models predict.[84]
Global warming 7

Attributed and expected effects

Global warming may be detected in natural, ecological or social systems as a change having statistical
significance.[86] Attribution of these changes e.g., to natural or human activities, is the next step following

Natural systems
Global warming has been detected in a number of systems. Some of
these changes, e.g., based on the instrumental temperature record, have
been described in the section on temperature changes. Rising sea levels
and observed decreases in snow and ice extent are consistent with
warming.[17] Most of the increase in global average temperature since
the mid-20th century is, with high probability,[D] attributable to
human-induced changes in greenhouse gas concentrations.[88]

Even with current policies to reduce emissions, global emissions are

still expected to continue to grow over the coming decades.[89] Over
Sparse records indicate that glaciers have been
retreating since the early 1800s. In the 1950s the course of the 21st century, increases in emissions at or above their
measurements began that allow the monitoring of current rate would very likely induce changes in the climate system
glacial mass balance, reported to the WGMS and larger than those observed in the 20th century.
the NSIDC.
In the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, across a range of future
emission scenarios, model-based estimates of sea level rise for the end of the 21st century (the year 2090-2099,
relative to 1980-1999) range from 0.18 to 0.59 m. These estimates, however, were not given a likelihood due to a
lack of scientific understanding, nor was an upper bound given for sea level rise. Over the course of centuries to
millennia, the melting of ice sheets could result in sea level rise of 4–6 m or more.[90]
Changes in regional climate are expected to include greater warming over land, with most warming at high northern
latitudes, and least warming over the Southern Ocean and parts of the North Atlantic Ocean.[89] Snow cover area and
sea ice extent are expected to decrease, with the Arctic expected to be largely ice-free in September by the 2037.[91]
The frequency of hot extremes, heat waves, and heavy precipitation will very likely increase.

Ecological systems
In terrestrial ecosystems, the earlier timing of spring events, and poleward and upward shifts in plant and animal
ranges, have been linked with high confidence to recent warming.[17] Future climate change is expected to
particularly affect certain ecosystems, including tundra, mangroves, and coral reefs.[89] It is expected that most
ecosystems will be affected by higher atmospheric CO2 levels, combined with higher global temperatures.[92]
Overall, it is expected that climate change will result in the extinction of many species and reduced diversity of

Social systems
Vulnerability of human societies to climate change mainly lies in the effects of extreme weather events rather than
gradual climate change.[94] Impacts of climate change so far include adverse effects on small islands,[95] adverse
effects on indigenous populations in high-latitude areas,[96] and small but discernable effects on human health.[97]
Over the 21st century, climate change is likely to adversely affect hundreds of millions of people through increased
coastal flooding, reductions in water supplies, increased malnutrition and increased health impacts.[98]
Future warming of around 3 ºC (by 2100, relative to 1990-2000) could result in increased crop yields in mid- and
high-latitude areas, but in low-latitude areas, yields could decline, increasing the risk of malnutrition.[95] A similar
regional pattern of net benefits and costs could occur for economic (market-sector) effects.[97] Warming above 3 ºC
Global warming 8

could result in crop yields falling in temperate regions, leading to a reduction in global food production.[99] Most
economic studies suggest losses of world gross domestic product (GDP) for this magnitude of warming.[100] [101]

Responses to global warming

Reducing the amount of future climate change is called mitigation of climate change. The IPCC defines mitigation as
activities that reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, or enhance the capacity of carbon sinks to absorb GHGs
from the atmosphere.[102] Many countries, both developing and developed, are aiming to use cleaner, less polluting,
technologies.[46] :192 Use of these technologies aids mitigation and could result in substantial reductions in CO2
emissions. Policies include targets for emissions reductions, increased use of renewable energy, and increased energy
efficiency. Studies indicate substantial potential for future reductions in emissions.[103] Since even in the most
optimistic scenario, fossil fuels are going to be used for years to come, mitigation may also involve carbon capture
and storage, a process that traps CO2 produced by factories and gas or coal power stations and then stores it, usually

Other policy responses include adaptation to climate change. Adaptation to climate change may be planned, e.g., by
local or national government, or spontaneous, i.e., done privately without government intervention.[105] The ability
to adapt is closely linked to social and economic development.[103] Even societies with high capacities to adapt are
still vulnerable to climate change. Planned adaptation is already occurring on a limited basis. The barriers, limits, and
costs of future adaptation are not fully understood.

Another policy response is engineering of the climate (geoengineering). This policy response is sometimes grouped
together with mitigation.[106] Geoengineering is largely unproven, and reliable cost estimates for it have not yet been
published.[107] Geoengineering encompasses a range of techniques to remove CO2 from the atmosphere or to block
incoming sunlight. As most geoengineering techniques would affect the entire globe, the use of effective techniques,
if they can be developed, would require global public acceptance and an adequate global legal and regulatory

Most countries are Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).[109] The
ultimate objective of the Convention is to prevent "dangerous" human interference of the climate system.[110] As is
stated in the Convention, this requires that GHGs are stabilized in the atmosphere at a level where ecosystems can
adapt naturally to climate change, food production is not threatened, and economic development can proceed in a
sustainable fashion.
The UNFCCC recognizes differences among countries in their responsibility to act on climate change.[111] In the
Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC, most developed countries (listed in Annex I of the treaty) took on legally binding
commitments to reduce their emissions.[112] Policy measures taken in response to these commitments have reduced
emissions.[113] For many developing (non-Annex I) countries, reducing poverty is their overriding aim.[114]
At the 15th UNFCCC Conference of the Parties, held in 2009 at Copenhagen, several UNFCCC Parties produced the
Copenhagen Accord.[115] Parties agreeing with the Accord aim to limit the future increase in global mean
temperature to below 2 °C.[116] The 16th Conference of the Parties (COP16) was held at Cancún in 2010. It produced
an agreement, not a binding treaty, that the Parties should take urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to
meet the 2 °C goal. It also recognized the need to consider strengthening the goal to a global average rise of
Global warming 9

1.5 °C.[117]

Views on global warming

Per capita greenhouse gas emissions in 2005, including land-use change.

Total greenhouse gas emissions in 2005, including land-use change.

There are different views over what the appropriate policy response to climate change should be.[118] [119] These
competing views weigh the benefits of limiting emissions of greenhouse gases against the costs. In general, it seems
likely that climate change will impose greater damages and risks in poorer regions.[120]

Developed and developing countries have made different arguments over who should bear the burden of economic
costs for cutting emissions. Developing countries often concentrate on per capita emissions, that is, the total
emissions of a country divided by its population.[121] Per capita emissions in the industrialized countries are typically
as much as ten times the average in developing countries.[122] This is used to make the argument that the real
problem of climate change is due to the profligate and unsustainable lifestyles of those living in rich countries.[121]
On the other hand, Banuri et al. point out that total carbon emissions,[121] carrying capacity, efficient energy use and
civil and political rights are very important issues. Land is not the same everywhere. Not only the quantity of fossil
fuel use but also the quality of energy use is a key debate point. Efficient energy use supporting technological change
might help reduce excess carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere. The use of fossil fuels for conspicuous consumption
and excessive entertainment are issues that can conflict with civil and political rights. People in developed countries
argue that history has proven the difficulty of implementing fair rationing programs in different countries because
there is no global system of checks and balances or civil liberties.
The Kyoto Protocol, which came into force in 2005, sets legally binding emission limitations for most developed
countries.[112] Developing countries are not subject to limitations. This exemption led the U.S. and Australia to
decide not to ratify the treaty,[123] [124] [125] although Australia did finally ratify the treaty in December 2007.[126]
Debate continued at the Copenhagen climate summit and the Cancún climate summit.

Public opinion
In 2007–2008 Gallup Polls surveyed 127 countries. Over a third of the world's population was unaware of global
warming, with people in developing countries less aware than those in developed, and those in Africa the least
aware. Of those aware, Latin America leads in belief that temperature changes are a result of human activities while
Africa, parts of Asia and the Middle East, and a few countries from the Former Soviet Union lead in the opposite
belief.[127] In the Western world, opinions over the concept and the appropriate responses are divided. Nick Pidgeon
of Cardiff University said that "results show the different stages of engagement about global warming on each side
of the Atlantic", adding, "The debate in Europe is about what action needs to be taken, while many in the U.S. still
Global warming 10

debate whether climate change is happening."[128] [129] A 2010 poll by the Office of National Statistics found that
75% of UK respondents were at least "fairly convinced" that the world's climate is changing, compared to 87% in a
similar survey in 2006.[130] A January 2011 ICM poll in the UK found 83% of respondents viewed climate change as
a current or imminent threat, while 14% said it was no threat. Opinion was unchanged from an August 2009 poll
asking the same question, though there had been a slight polarisation of opposing views.[131]
A survey in October, 2009 by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press showed decreasing public
perception in the United States that global warming was a serious problem. All political persuasions showed reduced
concern with lowest concern among Republicans, only 35% of whom considered there to be solid evidence of global
warming.[132] The cause of this marked difference in public opinion between the United States and the global public
is uncertain but the hypothesis has been advanced that clearer communication by scientists both directly and through
the media would be helpful in adequately informing the American public of the scientific consensus and the basis for
it.[133] The U.S. public appears to be unaware of the extent of scientific consensus regarding the issue, with 59%
believing that scientists disagree "significantly" on global warming.[134]
By 2010, with 111 countries surveyed, Gallup determined that there was a substantial decrease in the number of
Americans and Europeans who viewed Global Warming as a serious threat. In the United States, a little over half the
population (53%) now viewed it as a serious concern for either themselves or their families; a number 10 percentage
points below the 2008 poll (63%). Latin America had the biggest rise in concern, with 73% saying global warming
was a serious threat to their families.[135]

Other views
Most scientists accept that humans are contributing to observed climate change.[45] [136] National science academies
have called on world leaders for policies to cut global emissions.[137] However, some scientists and non-scientists
question aspects of climate-change science.[138] [139]
Organizations such as the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute, conservative commentators, and some
companies such as ExxonMobil have challenged IPCC climate change scenarios, funded scientists who disagree with
the scientific consensus, and provided their own projections of the economic cost of stricter controls.[140] [141] [142]
In the finance industry, Deutsche Bank has set up an institutional climate change investment division
(DBCCA),[144] which has commissioned and published research[145] on the issues and debate surrounding global
warming.[146] Environmental organizations and public figures have emphasized changes in the current climate and
the risks they entail, while promoting adaptation to changes in infrastructural needs and emissions reductions.[147]
Some fossil fuel companies have scaled back their efforts in recent years,[148] or called for policies to reduce global

The term global warming was probably first used in its modern sense on 8 August 1975 in a science paper by Wally
Broecker in the journal Science called "Are we on the brink of a pronounced global warming?".[150] [151] [152]
Broecker's choice of words was new and represented a significant recognition that the climate was warming;
previously the phrasing used by scientists was "inadvertent climate modification," because while it was recognized
humans could change the climate, no one was sure which direction it was going.[153] The National Academy of
Sciences first used global warming in a 1979 paper called the Charney Report, it said: "if carbon dioxide continues
to increase, [we find] no reason to doubt that climate changes will result and no reason to believe that these changes
will be negligible."[154] The report made a distinction between referring to surface temperature changes as global
warming, while referring to other changes caused by increased CO2 as climate change.[153]
Global warming became more widely popular after 1988 when NASA climate scientist James Hansen used the term
in a testimony to Congress.[153] He said: "global warming has reached a level such that we can ascribe with a high
degree of confidence a cause and effect relationship between the greenhouse effect and the observed warming."[155]
Global warming 11

His testimony was widely reported and afterward global warming was commonly used by the press and in public

A. ^ Increase is for years 1905 to 2005. Global surface temperature is defined in the IPCC Fourth Assessment
Report as the average of near-surface air temperature over land and sea surface temperature. These error bounds
are constructed with a 90% confidence interval.
B. ^ The 2001 joint statement was signed by the national academies of science of Australia, Belgium, Brazil,
Canada, the Caribbean, the People's Republic of China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy,
Malaysia, New Zealand, Sweden, and the UK. The 2005 statement added Japan, Russia, and the U.S. The 2007
statement added Mexico and South Africa. The Network of African Science Academies, and the Polish Academy
of Sciences have issued separate statements. Professional scientific societies include American Astronomical
Society, American Chemical Society, American Geophysical Union, American Institute of Physics, American
Meteorological Society, American Physical Society, American Quaternary Association, Australian
Meteorological and Oceanographic Society, Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences,
Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society, European Academy of Sciences and Arts, European
Geosciences Union, European Science Foundation, Geological Society of America, Geological Society of
Australia, Geological Society of London-Stratigraphy Commission, InterAcademy Council, International Union
of Geodesy and Geophysics, International Union for Quaternary Research, National Association of Geoscience
Teachers [156], National Research Council (US), Royal Meteorological Society, and World Meteorological
C. ^ Note that the greenhouse effect produces an average worldwide temperature increase of about 33 °C (59 °F)
compared to black body predictions without the greenhouse effect, not an average surface temperature of 33 °C
(91 °F). The average worldwide surface temperature is about 14 °C (57 °F).
D. ^ In the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, published in 2007, this attribution is given a probability of greater than
90%, based on expert judgement.[157] According to the US National Research Council Report – Understanding
and Responding to Climate Change - published in 2008, "[most] scientists agree that the warming in recent
decades has been caused primarily by human activities that have increased the amount of greenhouse gases in the

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Global warming 19

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[154] National Academy of Science, Carbon Dioxide and Climate, Washington, D.C., 1979, p. vii.
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[157] IPCC (2007d). "Introduction. In (section): Synthesis Report. In (book): Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working
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Global warming 20

Further reading
• Association of British Insurers (2005–06) (PDF). Financial Risks of Climate Change (http://www.climatewise.
• Ammann, Caspar; et al. (2007). "Solar influence on climate during the past millennium: Results from transient
simulations with the NCAR Climate Simulation Model" (
(PDF). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 104 (10): 3713–3718.
doi:10.1073/pnas.0605064103. PMC 1810336. PMID 17360418. "Simulations with only natural forcing
components included yield an early 20th century peak warming of ≈0.2 °C (≈1950 AD), which is reduced to
about half by the end of the century because of increased volcanism".
• Barnett, TP; Adam, JC; Lettenmaier, DP; Adam, J. C.; Lettenmaier, D. P. (2005-11-17). "Potential impacts of a
warming climate on water availability in snow-dominated regions" (
v438/n7066/abs/nature04141.html) (abstract). Nature 438 (7066): 303–309. doi:10.1038/nature04141.
PMID 16292301.
• Behrenfeld, MJ; O'malley, RT; Siegel, DA; Mcclain, CR; Sarmiento, JL; Feldman, GC; Milligan, AJ; Falkowski,
PG et al.; et al. (2006-12-07). "Climate-driven trends in contemporary ocean productivity" (http://www.icess. (PDF). Nature 444 (7120): 752–755.
doi:10.1038/nature05317. PMID 17151666.
• Choi, Onelack; Fisher, Ann (May 2005). "The Impacts of Socioeconomic Development and Climate Change on
Severe Weather Catastrophe Losses: Mid-Atlantic Region (MAR) and the U.S." (
content/m6308777613702q0/). Climate Change 58 (1–2): 149–170. doi:10.1023/A:1023459216609.
• Dyurgerov, Mark B.; Meier, Mark F. (2005) (PDF). Glaciers and the Changing Earth System: a 2004 Snapshot
( Institute of Arctic and Alpine
Research Occasional Paper #58. ISSN 0069-6145.
• Emanuel, K (2005-08-04). "Increasing destructiveness of tropical cyclones over the past 30 years." (ftp://texmex. (PDF). Nature 436 (7051): 686–688.
doi:10.1038/nature03906. PMID 16056221.
• Hansen, James; et al. (2005-06-03). "Earth's Energy Imbalance: Confirmation and Implications" (http://pangea.'s Energy Balance.pdf) (PDF). Science 308
(5727): 1431–1435. doi:10.1126/science.1110252. PMID 15860591.
• Hinrichs, Kai-Uwe; Hmelo, Laura R.; Sylva, Sean P. (2003-02-21). "Molecular Fossil Record of Elevated
Methane Levels in Late Pleistocene Coastal Waters". Science 299 (5610): 1214–1217.
doi:10.1126/science.1079601. PMID 12595688.
• Hirsch, Tim (2006-01-11). "Plants revealed as methane source" (
4604332.stm). BBC.
• Hoyt, Douglas V.; Schatten, Kenneth H. (1993–11). "A discussion of plausible solar irradiance variations,
1700–1992". Journal of Geophysical Research 98 (A11): 18,895–18,906. Bibcode 1993JGR....9818895H.
• Karnaukhov, A. V. (2001). "Role of the Biosphere in the Formation of the Earth’s Climate: The Greenhouse
Catastrophe" ( (PDF). Biophysics 46 (6).
• Kenneth, James P.; et al. (2003-02-14). Methane Hydrates in Quaternary Climate Change: The Clathrate Gun
Hypothesis ( American Geophysical Union.
• Keppler, Frank; et al. (2006-01-18). "Global Warming – The Blame Is not with the Plants" (http://www.mpg.
html). Max Planck Society.
• Lean, Judith L.; Wang, Y.M.; Sheeley, N.R. (2002–12). "The effect of increasing solar activity on the Sun's total
and open magnetic flux during multiple cycles: Implications for solar forcing of climate" (abstract). Geophysical
Research Letters 29 (24): 2224. Bibcode 2002GeoRL..29x..77L. doi:10.1029/2002GL015880.
Global warming 21

• Lerner, K. Lee; Lerner, K. Lee; Wilmoth, Brenda (2006-07-26). Environmental issues: essential primary sources.
Thomson Gale. ISBN 1-4144-0625-8.
• Muscheler, Raimund, R; Joos, F; Müller, SA; Snowball, I; et al. (2005-07-28). "Climate: How unusual is today's
solar activity?" (
(PDF). Nature 436 (7012): 1084–1087. doi:10.1038/nature04045. PMID 16049429.
• Oerlemans, J. (2005-04-29). "Extracting a Climate Signal from 169 Glacier Records" (
abstracts/EGU05/04572/EGU05-J-04572.pdf) (PDF). Science 308 (5722): 675–677.
doi:10.1126/science.1107046. PMID 15746388.
• Purse, BV; Mellor, PS; Rogers, DJ; Samuel, AR; Mertens, PP; Baylis, M; et al. (February 2005). "Climate change
and the recent emergence of bluetongue in Europe" (
nrmicro1090_fs.html) (abstract). Nature Reviews Microbiology 3 (2): 171–181. doi:10.1038/nrmicro1090.
PMID 15685226.
• Revkin, Andrew C (2005-11-05). "Rise in Gases Unmatched by a History in Ancient Ice" (http://www.nytimes.
adxnnl=1&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss). The New York Times.
• Ruddiman, William F. (2005-12-15). Earth's Climate Past and Future (
). New York: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-7167-3741-8.
• Ruddiman, William F. (2005-08-01). Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum: How Humans Took Control of Climate.
New Jersey: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-12164-8.
• Solanki, SK; Usoskin, IG; Kromer, B; Schüssler, M; Beer, J; et al. (2004-10-23). "Unusual activity of the Sun
during recent decades compared to the previous 11,000 years." (
nature02995.pdf) (PDF). Nature 431 (7012): 1084–1087. doi:10.1038/nature02995. PMID 15510145.
• Solanki, Sami K.; et al. (2005-07-28). "Climate: How unusual is today's solar activity? (Reply)" (http://cc.oulu.
fi/~usoskin/personal/sola_nature05.pdf) (PDF). Nature 436 (7050): E4–E5. doi:10.1038/nature04046.
• Sowers, Todd (2006-02-10). "Late Quaternary Atmospheric CH4 Isotope Record Suggests Marine Clathrates Are
Stable". Science 311 (5762): 838–840. doi:10.1126/science.1121235. PMID 16469923.
• Svensmark, Henrik; et al. (2007-02-08). "Experimental evidence for the role of ions in particle nucleation under
atmospheric conditions". Proceedings of the Royal Society A (FirstCite Early Online Publishing) 463 (2078):
385–396. doi:10.1098/rspa.2006.1773.(online version requires registration)
• Walter, KM; Zimov, SA; Chanton, JP; Verbyla, D; Chapin Fs, 3rd; et al. (2006-09-07). "Methane bubbling from
Siberian thaw lakes as a positive feedback to climate warming". Nature 443 (7107): 71–75.
doi:10.1038/nature05040. PMID 16957728.
• Wang, Y.-M.; Lean, J.L.; Sheeley, N.R. (2005-05-20). "Modeling the sun's magnetic field and irradiance since
1713" ( (PDF). Astrophysical Journal 625
(1): 522–538. Bibcode 2005ApJ...625..522W. doi:10.1086/429689.
• Royal Society (2005). "Joint science academies' statement: Global response to climate change" (http:// Retrieved 19 April
Global warming 22

External links
• Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ( — collection of IPCC reports
• NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (  - Global change research
• NOAA State of the Climate Report (  - U.S. and global
monthly state of the climate reports
• United States Global Change Research Program (  - Global climate change
research in the United States
• Climate Change at the National Academies (
Reports-Academies-Findings) — repository for reports
• Nature Reports Climate Change ( — free-access web resource
• Met Office: Climate change ( — UK National Weather Service
• Global Science and Technology Sources on the Internet ( —
extensive commented list of internet resources
• Educational Global Climate Modelling ( (EdGCM) — research-quality climate
change simulator
• DISCOVER ( — satellite-based ocean and climate data since 1979 from NASA
• Global Warming Art ( — collection of figures and images
• What Is Global Warming? (
html) — by National Geographic
• Global Climate Change Indicators (  - from NOAA
• NOAA Climate Services (  - from NOAA
• Global Warming Frequently Asked Questions (
html) — from NOAA
• Understanding Climate Change – Frequently Asked Questions (
climatechange/faqs.jsp) — from UCAR
• Global Climate Change: NASA's Eyes on the Earth ( — from NASA's JPL and
• OurWorld 2.0 ( — from the United Nations University
• Pew Center on Global Climate Change ( — business and politics
• Best Effort Global Warming Trajectories – Wolfram Demonstrations Project (http://demonstrations.wolfram.
com/BestEffortGlobalWarmingTrajectories/) — by Harvey Lam
• Koshland Science Museum – Global Warming Facts and Our Future (http://www.koshland-science-museum.
org/exhibitgcc/) — graphical introduction from National Academy of Sciences
• The Discovery of Global Warming – A History ( — by Spencer R. Weart
from The American Institute of Physics
• Climate Change: Coral Reefs on the Edge ( — A video presentation
by Prof. Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, University of Auckland
• Climate Change Indicators in the United States ( Report
by United States Environmental Protection Agency, 80 pp.
• Global Warming (
• Video on the effects of global warming on St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea (
Instrumental temperature record 23

Instrumental temperature record

Instrumental global surface temperature record since widespread reliable measurements began in the late 19th century; see also [1]

Map of the land-based long-term monitoring stations included in the Global Historical Climatology Network. Colors indicate the length of the
temperature record available at each site.

The instrumental temperature record shows fluctuations of the temperature of the global land surface and oceans.
This data is collected from several thousand meteorological stations, Antarctic research stations and satellite
observations of sea-surface temperature. As seen in the figure, the X axis represents the time, and the Y axis
represents temperature anomaly in degree Celsius. Anomaly means departure from a baseline. In this figure, the
1961–1990 global mean temperature is used as the baseline value. The annual mean global temperature is subtracted
from this base value and the result obtained is plotted on the graph corresponding to the year on X axis. Currently,
the longest-running temperature record is the Central England temperature data series, that starts in 1659. The
longest-running quasi-global record starts in 1850.[2]

Global records databases

Currently, the Hadley Centre maintains the HADCRUT3, a global surface temperature dataset,[3] NASA maintains
GISTEMP, which provides a measure of the changing global surface temperature with monthly resolution for the
period since 1880,[4] and the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) maintains
the Global Historical Climatology Network (GHCN-Monthly) data base contains historical temperature,
precipitation, and pressure data for thousands of land stations worldwide.[5] Also, NOAA's National Climatic Data
Center (NCDC), which has "the world's largest active archive"[6] of surface temperature measurements, maintains a
Instrumental temperature record 24

global temperature record since 1880.[7]

The global record from 1850

The period for which reasonably reliable instrumental records of near-surface temperature exist with quasi-global
coverage is generally considered to begin around 1850. Earlier records exist, but with sparser coverage and less
standardized instrumentation.
The temperature data for the record come from measurements from land stations and ships. On land, temperature
sensors are kept in a Stevenson screen or a maximum minimum temperature system (MMTS). The sea record
consists of surface ships taking sea temperature measurements from engine inlets or buckets. The land and marine
records can be compared.[8] Land and sea measurement and instrument calibration is the responsibility of national
meteorological services [9]. Standardization of methods is organized through the World Meteorological Organization
and its predecessor, the International Meteorological Organization.[10]
Currently, most meteorological observations are taken for use in weather forecasts. Centers such as ECMWF show
instantaneous map of their coverage [11]; or the Hadley Centre show the coverage for the average of the year 2000
. Coverage for earlier in the 20th and 19th centuries would be significantly less. While temperature changes vary
both in size and direction from one location to another, the numbers from different locations are combined to
produce an estimate of a global average change.
There are concerns about possible uncertainties in the instrumental temperature record including the fraction of the
globe covered, the effects of changing thermometer designs and observing practices, and the effects of changing
land-use around the observing stations. The ocean temperature record too suffers from changing practices (such as
the switch from collecting water in canvas buckets to measuring the temperature from engine intakes[13] ) but they
are immune to the urban heat island effect or to changes in local land use/land cover (LULC) at the land surface

Warming in the instrumental temperature record

Comparison of ground based (blue) and satellite based (red: UAH; green: RSS) records of global surface temperature change from 1979-2009.
Linear trends plotted since 1982.
Instrumental temperature record 25

Global surface temperature change for the period 1980-2004. The blue line is the monthly average, the black line is the annual average and the red
line is the 5-year running average. Data source: http:/ / www. cru. uea. ac. uk/

Most of the observed warming occurred during two periods: 1910 to 1945 and 1976 to 2000; the cooling/plateau
from 1945 to 1976 has been mostly attributed to sulphate aerosol.[14] However, a study in 2008 suggests that the
temperature drop of about 0.3°C in 1945 could be the apparent result of uncorrected instrumental biases in the sea
surface temperature record.[13] Attribution of the temperature change to natural or anthropogenic factors is an
important question: see global warming and attribution of recent climate change.
Land and sea measurements independently show much the same warming since 1860.[15] The data from these
stations show an average surface temperature increase of about 0.74 °C during the last 100 years. The
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated in its Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) that the
temperature rise over the 100 year period from 1906–2005 was 0.74 °C [0.56 to 0.92 °C] with a confidence interval
of 90%.
For the last 50 years, the linear warming trend has been 0.13 °C [0.10 to 0.16 °C] per decade according to AR4.
The U.S. National Academy of Sciences, both in its 2002 report to President George W. Bush, and in later
publications, has strongly endorsed evidence of an average global temperature increase in the 20th century.[16]
The IPCC Fourth Assessment Report found that the instrumental temperature record for the past century included
urban heat island effects but that these were primarily local, having a negligible influence on global temperature
trends (less than 0.006 °C per decade over land and zero over the oceans).
For more information about the effects or otherwise of urbanization on the temperature record, see the main article:
Urban heat island effect
Instrumental temperature record 26

Spatial variability

1901–2008 global temperature trend

Global Land temperature anomaly 1880-2010. Global Ocean temperature anomaly 1880-2010.

The global temperature changes are not uniform over the globe, nor would they be expected to be, whether the
changes were naturally or humanly forced.
Temperature trends from 1901 are positive over most of the world's surface except for Atlantic Ocean south of
Greenland, the south-eastern USA and parts of Bolivia. Warming is strongest over interior land area in Asia and
North America as well as south-eastern Brazil and some area in the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans.
Since 1979 temperatures increase is considerably stronger over land while cooling has been observed over some
oceanic regions in the Pacific Ocean and Southern Hemisphere, the spatial pattern of ocean temperature trend in
those regions is possibly related to the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and Southern Anular Mode.[17]
Seasonal temperature trends are positive over most of the globe but weak cooling is observed over the mid latitudes
of the southern ocean but also over eastern Canada in spring due to strengthening of the North Atlantic Oscillation,
warming is stronger over northern Europe, China and North America in winter, Europe and Asia interior in spring,
Europe and north Africa in summer and northern North America, Greenland and Eastern Asia in autumn. Enhanced
warming over north Eurasia is partly linked to the Northern Anular Mode,[18] [19] while in the southern hemisphere
the trend toward stronger westerlies over the southern ocean favoured a cooling over much of Antarctica with the
exception of the Antarctic Peninsula where strong westerlies decrease cold air outbreak from the south.[20] The
Antarctic Peninsula has warmed by 2.5 °C (4.5 °F) in the past five decades at Bellingshausen Station.[21]
Instrumental temperature record 27

Calculating the global temperature

Deriving a reliable global temperature from the instrument data is not easy because the instruments are not evenly
distributed across the planet, the hardware and observing locations have changed over the years, and there has been
extensive land use change (such as urbanization) around some of the sites.
The calculation needs to filter out the changes that have occurred over time that are not climate related (e.g. urban
heat islands), then interpolate across regions where instrument data has historically been sparse (e.g. in the southern
hemisphere and at sea), before an average can be taken.
There are three main datasets showing analyses of global temperatures, all developed since the late 1970s: the
HadCRUT analysis is compiled in a collaboration between the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit
and the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research,[22][23], independent analyses largely based on the same
raw data are produced using different levels of interpolation by the Goddard Institute for Space Studies and by the
National Climatic Data Center.[24] These datasets are updated on a monthly basis and are generally in close
In the late 1990s, the Goddard team used the same data to produce a global map of temperature anomalies to
illustrate the difference between the current temperature and average temperatures prior to 1950 across every part of
the globe.[25]

Temperature processing software

In September 2007, the GISTEMP software which is used to process the GISS version of the historical instrument
data was made public. The software that was released has been developed over more than 20 years by numerous staff
and is mostly in FORTRAN; large parts of it were developed in the 1980s before massive amounts of computer
memory was available as well as modern programming languages and techniques.
Two recent open source projects have been developed by individuals to re-write the processing software in modern
open code. One, http:/ / www. opentemp. org/ , was by John van Vliet. More recently, a project which began in April
2008 (Clear Climate Code [26]) by staff of Ravenbrook Ltd to update the code to Python has so far detected two
minor bugs in the original software which did not significantly change any results.[27]

Uncertainties in the temperature record

A number of scientists and scientific organizations have expressed concern about the possible deterioration of the
land surface observing network.[28] [29] [30] [31] Climate scientist Roger A. Pielke has stated that he has identified a
number of sites where poorly sited stations in sparse regions "will introduce spatially unrepresentative data into the
analyses."[32] University of Alabama-Huntsville professor of atmospheric science and former IPCC lead author John
Christy has stated that "[t]he temperature records cannot be relied on as indicators of global change."[33] The
metadata needed to quantify the uncertainty from poorly sited stations does not currently exist. Pielke has called for a
similar documentation effort for the rest of the world.[34]
The uncertainty in annual measurements of the global average temperature (95% range) is estimated to be ≈0.05°C
since 1950 and as much as ≈0.15°C in the earliest portions of the instrumental record. The error in recent years is
dominated by the incomplete coverage of existing temperature records. Early records also have a substantial
uncertainty driven by systematic concerns over the accuracy of sea surface temperature measurements.[35] [36]
Station densities are highest in the northern hemisphere, providing more confidence in climate trends in this region.
Station densities are far lower in other regions such as the tropics, northern Asia and the former Soviet Union. This
results in less confidence in the robustness of climate trends in these areas. If a region with few stations includes a
poor quality station, the impact on global temperature would be greater than in a grid with many weather stations.[37]
Instrumental temperature record 28

Evaluation of the United States land surface temperature record

In 1999 a panel of the U.S. National Research Council studied the state of US climate observing systems.[38] The
panel evaluated many climate measurement aspects, 4 of which had to do with temperature, against ten climate
monitoring principles proposed by Karl et al. 1995. Land surface temperature had "known serious deficiencies" in 5
principles, vertical distribution and sea surface in 9 and subsurface ocean in 7.
The U.S. National Weather Service Cooperative Observer Program has established minimum standards regarding the
instrumentation, siting, and reporting of surface temperature stations.[39] The observing systems available are able to
detect year-to-year temperature variations such as those caused by El Niño or volcanic eruptions.[40] These stations
can undergo undocumented changes such as relocation, changes in instrumentation and exposure (including changes
in nearby thermally emitting structures), changes in land use (e.g., urbanization), and changes in observation
practices. All of these changes can introduce biases into the stations' long term records. In the past, these local biases
were generally considered to be random and therefore would cancel each other out using many stations and the ocean
A 2006 paper analyzed a subset of U.S. surface stations, 366 stations, and found that 95% displayed a warming trend
after land use/land cover (LULC) changes. The authors stated "this does not necessarily imply that the LULC
changes are the causative factor."[41] Another study [42] has documented examples of well and poorly sited
monitoring stations in the United States, including ones near buildings, roadways, and air conditioning exhausts.
Brooks investigated Historical Climate Network (USHCN) sites in Indiana, and assigned 16% of the sites an
‘excellent’ rating, 59% a ‘good’ rating, 12.5% a ‘fair’ rating, and 12.5% ‘poor’ rating.[43] Davey and Pielke visited 10
HCN sites in Eastern Colorado, but did not provide percentages of good or badly sited stations. They stated that
some of the sites "are not at all representative of their surrounding region" and should be replaced in the instrumental
temperature records with other sites from the U.S. cooperative observer network.[44]
Peterson has argued that existing empirical techniques for validating the local and regional consistency of
temperature data are adequate to identify and remove biases from station records, and that such corrections allow
information about long-term trends to be preserved.[45] Pielke and co-authors disagree.[46]

Warmest years
The list of warmest years on record is dominated by years from this millennium; each of the last 10 years
(2001–2010) features as one of the 11 warmest on record. Although the NCDC temperature record begins in 1880,
less accurate reconstructions of earlier temperatures suggest these years may be the warmest for several centuries to

20 warmest years on record (°C anomaly from 1901–2000 mean)

Year [47] [48] [49]
Global Land Ocean

[50] 0.6183 0.9593 0.4896


[51] 0.6171 0.9642 0.4885


[52] 0.5984 0.8320 0.5090


[53] 0.5832 0.7735 0.5108


[54] 0.5762 0.8318 0.4798


[55] 0.5623 0.8158 0.4669


[56] 0.5591 0.7595 0.4848

Instrumental temperature record 29

[57] 0.5509 0.9852 0.3900


[58] 0.5441 0.7115 0.4819


[59] 0.5188 0.7207 0.4419


[60] 0.4842 0.7801 0.3745


1997 0.4799 0.5583 0.4502

[61] 0.4210 0.6759 0.3240


1995 0.4097 0.6533 0.3196

[62] 0.3899 0.5174 0.3409


1990 0.3879 0.5479 0.3283

1991 0.3380 0.4087 0.3110

1988 0.3028 0.4192 0.2595

1987 0.2991 0.2959 0.3005

1994 0.2954 0.3604 0.2704

1983 0.2839 0.3715 0.2513

The values in the table above are anomalies from the 1901–2000 global mean of 13.9°C.[63] For instance, the
+0.55°C anomaly in 2007 added to the 1901–2000 mean of 13.9°C gives a global average temperature of 14.45 °C
(58.00 °F) for 2007.[64]
The coolest year in the record was 1911.[47]

Warmest Decades
Numerous cycles have been found to influence annual
global mean temperatures. The tropical El Niño-La
Niña cycle and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation are the
most well-known of these cycles.[65] An examination of
the average global temperature changes by decades
reveals continuing climate change.[66] Following chart
is from NASA data [67] of combined land-surface air
and sea-surface water temperature anomalies [68].

1880-2010 Global annual and decadal mean surface temperature

Instrumental temperature record 30

Years Temp. anomaly

(°C anomaly (°F anomaly) from 1951–1980 mean)

1880–1889 −0.274 °C (−0.493 °F)

1890–1899 −0.254 °C (−0.457 °F)

1900–1909 −0.259 °C (−0.466 °F)

1910–1919 −0.276 °C (−0.497 °F)

1920–1929 −0.175 °C (−0.315 °F)

1930–1939 −0.043 °C (−0.0774 °F)

1940–1949 0.035 °C (0.0630 °F)

1950–1959 −0.02 °C (−0.0360 °F)

1960–1969 −0.014 °C (−0.0252 °F)

1970–1979 −0.001 °C (−0.00180 °F)

1980–1989 0.176 °C (0.317 °F)

1990–1999 0.313 °C (0.563 °F)

2000–2009 0.513 °C (0.923 °F)

[1] http:/ / www. grida. no/ climate/ ipcc_tar/ wg1/ figspm-1. htm
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[19] Liu, J.P.; J.A. Curry, Y.J. Da, Radley Horton (2007). "Causes of the northern high-latitude land surface winter climate change" (http:/ /
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colostate. edu/ other_papers/ ThompsonSolomon_Science2002. pdf). Science 296 (5569): 895–899. doi:10.1126/science.1069270.
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[21] "Antarctic temperature data – Monthly mean surface temperature data and derived statistics for some Antarctic stations" (http:/ / www.
antarctica. ac. uk/ met/ gjma/ ). British Antarctic Survey. . Retrieved 2007-07-13.
[22] http:/ / www. cru. uea. ac. uk/ cru/ about/ history/
[23] http:/ / www. metoffice. gov. uk/ hadobs/ hadcrut3/
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"GISS Surface Temperature Analysis" (http:/ / data. giss. nasa. gov/ gistemp/ ). .
NCDC: Global Surface Temperature Anomalies (http:/ / www. ncdc. noaa. gov/ cmb-faq/ anomalies. html)
[25] Hansen, J., R. Ruedy, J. Glascoe, Mki. Sato (1999). "GISS analysis of surface temperature change" (http:/ / pubs. giss. nasa. gov/ abstracts/
1999/ Hansen_etal. html). J. Geophys. Res. 104: 30997–31022. Bibcode 1999JGR...10430997H. doi:10.1029/1999JD900835. .
[26] http:/ / clearclimatecode. org/
[27] "GISS Surface Temperature Analysis – Updates to Analysis" (http:/ / data. giss. nasa. gov/ gistemp/ updates/ ). NASA. . Retrieved
[28] UNITED NATIONS FRAMEWORK CONVENTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE (http:/ / unfccc. int/ cop3/ resource/ docs/ 1997/ sbsta/
misc06. htm) October 1997
[29] Menne MJ, Frederick HV, Del Greco SA (2005). "Monitoring the health of weather and climate observing networks" (http:/ / ams. confex.
com/ ams/ Annual2005/ techprogram/ paper_84693. htm). 21st International Conference on Interactive Information Processing Systems (IIPS)
for Meteorology, Oceanography, and Hydrology. .
[30] "Monitoring the Health of Weather and Climate Observing Networks" (http:/ / www. ncdc. noaa. gov/ oa/ hofn/ ). Health of the Networks.
National Climatic Data Center. .
[31] The Need for a Systems Approach to Climate Observations (http:/ / www. cgd. ucar. edu/ cas/ trenberth. pdf/ sysneedBAMS. pdf) Trenberth,
Karl, and Spence
[32] Climate Science: Roger Pielke Sr. Research Group Weblog (http:/ / climatesci. colorado. edu/ 2006/ 12/ 12/
[33] The Sunday Times, February 14, 2010 (http:/ / www. timesonline. co. uk/ tol/ news/ environment/ article7026317. ece)
[34] Climate Science: Roger Pielke Sr. Research Group Weblog (http:/ / climatesci. org/ 2007/ 06/ 01/
more-on-obtaining-global-historical-climate-network-sites/ )
[35] Brohan, P., J.J. Kennedy, I. Haris, S.F.B. Tett, P.D. Jones (2006). "Uncertainty estimates in regional and global observed temperature
changes: a new dataset from 1850" (http:/ / www. cru. uea. ac. uk/ cru/ data/ temperature/ HadCRUT3_accepted. pdf) (PDF). J. Geophys. Res.
111: D12106. Bibcode 2006JGRD..11112106B. doi:10.1029/2005JD006548. .
[36] Folland, C.K., N.A. Rayner, S.J. Brown, T.M. Smith, S.S.P. Shen, D.E. Parker, I. Macadam, P.D. Jones, R.N. Jones, N. Nicholls, D.M.H.
Sexton (2001). "Global temperature change and its uncertainties since 1861" (http:/ / www. geog. ox. ac. uk/ ~mnew/ teaching/
Online_Articles/ folland_et_al_temp_uncertainties_GRL_2001. PDF) (PDF). Geophysical Research Letters 28: 2621–2624.
Bibcode 2001GeoRL..28.2621F. doi:10.1029/2001GL012877. .
[37] Davey, C.A.; Pielke Sr., R.A. (2007?). Comparing Station Density and Reported Temperature Trends for Land-Surface Sites, 1979-2004
(http:/ / climatesci. colorado. edu/ publications/ pdf/ R-319. pdf). Roger A. Pielke Sr. (submitted to Climatic change). . Retrieved 2007-07-13.
[38] Adequacy of Climate Observing Systems (http:/ / books. nap. edu/ catalog. php?record_id=6424)
[39] NOAA National Weather Service Cooperative Observer Program: Proper Siting (http:/ / www. nws. noaa. gov/ om/ coop/ standard. htm)
[40] Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere: Steps for Understanding and Reconciling Differences. (http:/ / www. climatescience. gov/
Library/ sap/ sap1-1/ finalreport/ default. htm) Thomas R. Karl, Susan J. Hassol, Christopher D. Miller, and William L. Murray, editors, 2006.
A Report by the Climate Change Science Program and the Subcommittee on Global Change Research, Washington, DC.
[41] Land use/land cover change effects on temperature trends at U.S. Climate Normals stations (http:/ / www. agu. org/ pubs/ crossref/ 2006. . . /
2006GL026358. shtml)
[42] Mahmood R, Foster SA, Logan D (2006). "The GeoProfile metadata, exposure of instruments, and measurement bias in climatic record
revisited" (http:/ / www3. interscience. wiley. com/ cgi-bin/ abstract/ 112518278/ ABSTRACT). International Journal of Climatology 26 (8):
1091–1124. doi:10.1002/joc.1298. .
[43] Indiana State Climate Office (http:/ / www. agry. purdue. edu/ climate/ / hcn. asp)
[44] Bulleting of the American Meteorological Society (http:/ / pielkeclimatesci. files. wordpress. com/ 2009/ 10/ r-274. pdf) Volume 86 Number
4 April 2005
[45] Examination of Potential Biases in Air Temperature Caused By Poor Station Locations (http:/ / ams. allenpress. com/ archive/ 1520-0477/
87/ 8/ pdf/ i1520-0477-87-8-1073. pdf) Peterson, Thomas
[46] Documentation of Uncertainties and Biases Associated with Surface Temperature Measurement Sites for Climate Change Assessment (http:/
/ ams. allenpress. com/ archive/ 1520-0477/ 88/ 6/ pdf/ i1520-0477-88-6-913. pdf) Pielke et alia.
Instrumental temperature record 32

[47] NCDC: The Annual Global (land and ocean combined) Anomalies (ftp:/ / ftp. ncdc. noaa. gov/ pub/ data/ anomalies/ annual. land_ocean.
90S. 90N. df_1901-2000mean. dat)
[48] NCDC: The Annual Global Land Temperature Anomalies (ftp:/ / ftp. ncdc. noaa. gov/ pub/ data/ anomalies/ annual. land. 90S. 90N.
df_1901-2000mean. dat)
[49] NCDC: The Annual Global Ocean Temperature Anomalies (ftp:/ / ftp. ncdc. noaa. gov/ pub/ data/ anomalies/ annual. ocean. 90S. 90N.
df_1901-2000mean. dat)
[50] http:/ / www. ncdc. noaa. gov/ sotc/ ?report=global& year=2005& month=13
[51] http:/ / www. ncdc. noaa. gov/ sotc/ ?report=global& year=2010& month=13
[52] http:/ / www. ncdc. noaa. gov/ sotc/ ?report=global& year=1998& month=13
[53] http:/ / www. ncdc. noaa. gov/ sotc/ ?report=global& year=2003& month=13
[54] http:/ / www. ncdc. noaa. gov/ sotc/ ?report=global& year=2002& month=13
[55] http:/ / www. ncdc. noaa. gov/ sotc/ ?report=global& year=2006& month=13
[56] http:/ / www. ncdc. noaa. gov/ sotc/ ?report=global& year=2009& month=13
[57] http:/ / www. ncdc. noaa. gov/ sotc/ ?report=global& year=2007& month=13
[58] http:/ / www. ncdc. noaa. gov/ sotc/ ?report=global& year=2004& month=13
[59] http:/ / www. ncdc. noaa. gov/ sotc/ ?report=global& year=2001& month=13
[60] http:/ / www. ncdc. noaa. gov/ sotc/ ?report=global& year=2008& month=13
[61] http:/ / www. ncdc. noaa. gov/ sotc/ ?report=global& year=1999& month=13
[62] http:/ / www. ncdc. noaa. gov/ sotc/ ?report=global& year=2000& month=13
[63] NCDC: Global Surface Temperature Anomalies: Global Mean Temperature Estimates (http:/ / www. ncdc. noaa. gov/ cmb-faq/ anomalies.
[64] NCDC State of the Climate Global Analysis, Annual 2007 (http:/ / www. ncdc. noaa. gov/ sotc/ index. php?report=global& year=2007&
[65] Natural Climate Oscillations of Short Duration and the Long Term Climate Warming – Sorting Out the Climate System USGCRP Seminar,
20 March 2000 Updated 13 August, 2004 (http:/ / www. usgcrp. gov/ usgcrp/ seminars/ 000320FO. html)
[66] NASA Research Finds Last Decade was Warmest on Record, 2009 One of Warmest Years (http:/ / www. nasa. gov/ home/ hqnews/ 2010/
jan/ HQ_10-017_Warmest_temps. html)
[67] http:/ / data. giss. nasa. gov/ gistemp/ tabledata/ GLB. Ts+ dSST. txt
[68] http:/ / data. giss. nasa. gov/ gistemp/

• IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) WGI Summary for Policy Makers (SPM) (
• Global average temperature for the last 150 years (
and discussion ( of trends
• Preliminary data from the last 2000 years (

External links
• The EdGCM project has provided GISTEMP stations in (
Google Earth
• GISTemp – A Human View (,
introduction & overview, how it's made.
• Global-average temperature records (
explained/explained5.html), condensed explanation
Temperature record of the past 1000 years 33

Temperature record of the past 1000 years

For information on the description of the Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age in various IPCC reports
see MWP and LIA in IPCC reports
The temperature record of the 2nd
millennium describes the reconstruction of
temperatures since 1000 CE on the Northern
Hemisphere, later extended back to 1 CE
and also to cover the southern hemisphere.
A reconstruction is needed because a
reliable surface temperature record exists
only since about 1850. Studying past
climate is of interest for scientists in order to
improve the understanding of current
climate variability and, relatedly, providing
a better basis for future climate projections.
In particular, if the nature and magnitude of
natural climate variability can be
established, scientists will be able to better Reconstructions of Northern Hemisphere temperatures for the 2nd millennium
according to various older articles (bluish lines), newer articles (reddish lines), and
detect and attribute anthropogenic global
instrumental record (black line)
warming. Note, however, that although
temperature reconstructions from proxy data
help us understand the character of natural climate variability, attribution of recent climate change relies on a broad
range of methodologies of which the proxy reconstructions are only a small part.[1] [2]

According to all major temperature reconstructions published in peer-reviewed journals (see graph), the increase in
temperature in the 20th century and the temperature in the late 20th century is the highest in the record. Attention has
tended to focus on the early work of Michael E. Mann, Bradley and Hughes (1998), whose "hockey stick" graph was
featured in the 2001 United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. The methodology and data
sets used in creating the Mann et al. (1998) version of the hockey stick graph are disputed by Stephen McIntyre and
Ross McKitrick, but the graph is overall acknowledged by the scientific community.
Temperature record of the past 1000 years 34

General techniques and

By far the best observed period is from 1850
to the present day, with coverage improving
over time. Over this period the recent
instrumental record, mainly based on direct
thermometer readings, has approximately
global coverage. It shows a general warming
in global temperatures.

Before this time various proxies must be

used. These proxies are less accurate than
direct thermometer measurements, have
lower temporal resolution, and have less
spatial coverage. Their only advantage is
that they enable a longer record to be
reconstructed. Since the direct temperature
record is more accurate than the proxies
(indeed, it is needed to calibrate them) it is Instrumental Temperature record of the last 150 years.
used when available: i.e, from 1850

Quantitative methods using proxy data

As there are few instrumental records before 1850, temperatures before then must be reconstructed based on proxy
methods. One such method, based on principles of dendroclimatology, uses the width and other characteristics of
tree rings to infer temperature. The isotopic composition of snow, corals, and stalactites can also be used to infer
temperature. Other techniques which have been used include examining records of the time of crop harvests, the
treeline in various locations, and other historical records to make inferences about the temperature. These proxy
reconstructions are indirect inferences of temperature and thus tend to have greater uncertainty than instrumental
In general, the recent history of the proxy records is calibrated against local temperature records to estimate the
relationship between temperature and the proxy. The longer history of the proxy is then used to reconstruct
temperature from earlier periods. Proxy records must be averaged in some fashion if a global or hemispheric record
is desired. Considerable care must be taken in the averaging process; for example, if a certain region has a large
number of tree ring records, a simple average of all the data would strongly over-weight that region. Hence
data-reduction techniques such as principal components analysis are used to combine some of these regional records
before they are globally combined. An important distinction is between so-called 'multi-proxy' reconstructions,
which attempt to obtain a global temperature reconstructions by using multiple proxy records distributed over the
globe and more regional reconstructions. Usually, the various proxy records are combined arithmetically, in some
weighted average. More recently, Osborn and Briffa used a simpler technique, counting the proportion of records
that are positive, negative or neutral in any time period.[3] [4] This produces a result in general agreement with the
conventional multi-proxy studies.
Several reconstructions suggest there was minimal variability in temperatures prior to the 20th century (see, for
example, [5]). More recently, Mann and Jones have extended their reconstructions to cover the 1st and 2nd millennia
(GRL, 2003 [6] ). The work was reproduced by Wahl and Ammann in 2005 according to a press release [7] published
Temperature record of the past 1000 years 35

computer code [8] and a paper in press.[9]

The Mann, Bradley and Hughes (1998) version of the temperature record is known as the "Hockey Stick" graph, first
coined by Jerry Mahlman, director of the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory.
The work of Mann et al., Jones et al., Briffa and others [10] [11] forms a major part of the IPCC's conclusion that "the
rate and magnitude of global or hemispheric surface 20th century warming is likely to have been the largest of the
millennium, with the 1990s and 1998 likely to have been the warmest decade and year".[12]

Qualitative reconstruction using historical records

It is also possible to use historical data such as times of grape harvests, sea-ice-free periods in harbours and diary
entries of frost or heatwaves to produce indications of when it was warm or cold in particular regions. These records
are harder to calibrate, are often only available sparsely through time, may be available only from developed regions,
and are unlikely to come with good error estimates. These historical observations of the same time period show
periods of both warming and cooling.
Astrophysicist Sallie Baliunas notes that these temperature variations correlate with solar activity[13] and asserts that
the number of observed sunspots give us a rough measure of how bright the sun is. Balunias and others have
suggested that periods of decreased solar radiation are partially responsible for historically recorded periods of
cooling such as the Maunder Minimum and the Little Ice Age. The same argument would imply that periods of
increased solar radiation contributed to the Medieval Warm Period, when Greenland's icy coastal areas thawed
enough to permit farming and colonisation.

The apparent differences between the quantitative and qualitative approaches are not fully reconciled. The
reconstructions mentioned above rely on various assumptions to generate their results. If these assumptions do not
hold, the reconstructions would be unreliable. For quantitative reconstructions, the most fundamental assumptions
are that proxy records vary with temperature and that non-temperature factors do not confound the results. In the
historical records temperature fluctuations may be regional rather than hemispheric in scale.
In a letter to Nature (August 10, 2006) Bradley, Hughes and Mann[14] pointed at the original title of their 1998
article: Northern Hemisphere temperatures during the past millennium: inferences, uncertainties, and limitations[15]
and pointed out more widespread high-resolution data are needed before more confident conclusions can be reached
and that the uncertainties were the point of the article.

The hockey stick controversy

There is an ongoing debate about the details of the temperature record and the means of its reconstruction, centered
on the Mann, Bradley and Hughes (1998), "hockey stick" graph. Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick [16] claimed
various errors in the methodology of Mann et al. (1998) and that the method of Mann, Bradley, and Hughes when
tested on persistent red noise, nearly always produces a hockey stick shaped first principal component. In turn,
Michael E. Mann (supported by Tim Osborn, Keith Briffa and Phil Jones of the Climatic Research Unit) has
disputed the claims made by McIntyre and McKitrick.[17] [18] The IPCC Fourth Assessment Report says that
McIntyre and McKitrick "may have some theoretical foundation, but Wahl and Ammann (2006)[9] also show that the
impact on the amplitude of the final reconstruction is very small (~0.05°C)."[19]
Temperature record of the past 1000 years 36

[1] Houghton 2001 12. Detection of Climate Change and Attribution of Causes (http:/ / www. grida. no/ climate/ ipcc_tar/ wg1/ 439. htm)
[2] "What If … the "Hockey Stick" Were Wrong?" (http:/ / www. realclimate. org/ index. php/ archives/ 2005/ 01/
what-if-the-hockey-stick-were-wrong/ ). RealClimate. 2005-01-27. .
[3] Osborn, T. J.; Briffa, K. R. (2006). "The Spatial Extent of 20th-Century Warmth in the Context of the Past 1200 Years" (http:/ / www.
sciencemag. org/ cgi/ content/ abstract/ 311/ 5762/ 841). Science (AAAS) 311 (5762): 841–844. doi:10.1126/science.1120514.
PMID 16469924. .
[4] "A New Take on an Old Millennium" (http:/ / www. realclimate. org/ index. php/ archives/ 2006/ 02/ a-new-take-on-an-old-millennium/ ).
RealClimate. 2006-02-09. .
[5] http:/ / www. cru. uea. ac. uk/ cru/ info/ milltemp/
[6] Mann ME, Jones PD (August 2003). "Global Surface Temperatures over the Past Two Millennia" (http:/ / www. ngdc. noaa. gov/ paleo/
pubs/ mann2003b/ mann2003b. html). Global Surface Temperatures over the Past Two Millennia 30 (15): 1820. doi:10.1029/2003GL017814.
[7] The Hockey Stick Controversy: New Analysis Reproduces Graph of Late 20th Century Temperature Rise - Media Advisory (http:/ / www.
ucar. edu/ news/ releases/ 2005/ ammann. shtml)
[8] R Code for Mann-Bradley-Hughes (MBH) Northern Hemisphere Temperature Reconstruction (http:/ / www. cgd. ucar. edu/ ccr/ ammann/
millennium/ CODES_MBH. html)
[9] Wahl ER, Ammann CM (November 2007). "Robustness of the Mann, Bradley, Hughes reconstruction of Northern Hemisphere surface
temperatures: Examination of criticisms based on the nature and processing of proxy climate evidence" (http:/ / www. cgd. ucar. edu/ ccr/
ammann/ millennium/ refs/ Wahl_ClimChange2007. pdf) (PDF). Climatic Change 85 (1-2): 33–69. doi:10.1007/s10584-006-9105-7. .
[10] Houghton 2001 Figure 2.20: Millennial Northern Hemisphere (NH) temperature reconstruction (blue) and instrumental data (red) from AD
1000 to 1999 (http:/ / www. grida. no/ climate/ ipcc_tar/ wg1/ fig2-20. htm)
[11] Houghton 2001 Figure 2.21: Comparison of warm-season and annual mean multi-proxy-based and warm season tree-ring-based millennial
Northern Hemisphere temperature reconstructions (http:/ / www. grida. no/ climate/ ipcc_tar/ wg1/ fig2-21. htm)
[12] Houghton 2001 2.3.5 Summary (http:/ / www. grida. no/ climate/ ipcc_tar/ wg1/ 071. htm)
[13] Powell, Alvin (April 24, 2003). "Sun's warming is global: CfA lecture links solar activity and climate change" (http:/ / www. news. harvard.
edu/ gazette/ 2003/ 04. 24/ 04-sun. html). Harvard University Gazette. . Retrieved 2007-04-17.
[14] Bradley RS, Hughes MK, Mann ME (August 2006). "Authors were clear about hockey-stick uncertainties". Nature 442 (7103): 627.
doi:10.1038/442627b. PMID 16900179.
[15] Mann ME, Bradley RS, Hughes MK (1999). "Northern hemisphere temperatures during the past millennium: Inferences, uncertainties, and
limitations" (https:/ / www. ncdc. noaa. gov/ paleo/ pubs/ millennium-camera. pdf) (PDF). Geophys. Res. Lett. 26 (6): 759–762.
doi:10.1029/1999GL900070. .
[16] McIntyre S, McKitrick R (2005). "Hockey sticks, principal components, and spurious significance" (http:/ / www. agu. org/ pubs/ crossref/
2005/ 2004GL021750. shtml). Geophys. Res. Lett. 32: L03710. doi:10.1029/2004GL021750. .
[17] (http:/ / www. cru. uea. ac. uk/ ~timo/ paleo/ )
[18] Michael E. Mann, Raymond S. Bradley, Malcolm K. Hughes Note on Paper by McIntyre and McKitrick in "Energy and Environment"
(http:/ / www. meteo. psu. edu/ ~mann/ shared/ articles/ EandEPaperProblem. pdf)
[19] Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis, Ch. 6 (http:/ / www. ipcc. ch/ pdf/ assessment-report/ ar4/ wg1/ ar4-wg1-chapter6. pdf)

External links
• Houghton, John Theodore, ed (2001). Climate change 2001: the scientific basis: contribution of Working Group I
to the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (
climate/ipcc_tar/wg1). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-80767-0.
• A collection of various reconstructions of global and local temperature from centuries on up (http://www.ngdc.
• An NOAA collection of individual data records (
• Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Last 2,000 Years (
Historical climatology 37

Historical climatology
Historical climatology is the study of historical changes in climate and their effect on human history and
development. This differs from paleoclimatology which encompasses climate change over the entire history of the
earth. The study seeks to define periods in human history where temperature or precipitation varied from what is
observed in the present day. The primary sources include written records such as sagas, chronicles, maps and local
history literature as well as pictorial representations such as paintings, drawings and even rock art. The
archaeological record is equally important in establishing evidence of settlement, water and land usage.

Techniques of historical climatology

In literate societies, historians may find written evidence of climatic variations over hundreds or thousands of years,
such as phenological records of natural processes, for example viticultural records of grape harvest dates. In
preliterate or non-literate societies, researchers must rely on other techniques to find evidence of historical climate
Past population levels and habitable ranges of humans or plants and animals may be used to find evidence of past
differences in climate for the region. Palynology, the study of pollens, can show not only the range of plants and to
reconstruct possible ecology, but to estimate the amount of precipitation in a given time period, based on the
abundance of pollen in that layer of sediment or ice.

Evidence of climatic variations

The eruption of the Toba supervolcano, 70,000 to 75,000 years ago reduced the average global temperature by 5
degrees Celsius for several years and may have triggered an ice age. It has been postulated that this created a
bottleneck in human evolution. A much smaller but similar effect occurred after the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883,
when global temperatures fell for about 5 years in a row.
Before the retreat of glaciers at the start of the Holocene (~9600 BC), ice sheets covered much of the northern
latitudes and sea levels were much lower than they are today. The start of our present interglacial period appears to
have helped spur the development of human civilization.

Human record
Evidence of a warm climate in Europe, for example, comes from
archaeological studies of settlement and farming in the Early Bronze Age at
altitudes now beyond cultivation, such as Dartmoor, Exmoor, the Lake
district and the Pennines in England. The climate appears to have deteriorated
towards the Late Bronze Age however. Settlements and field boundaries have
been found at high altitude in these areas, which are now wild and
uninhabitable. They include Dartmoor and Exmoor as well as the Pennines
and Lake District in the United Kingdom. Grimspound on Dartmoor is well
preserved and shows the standing remains of an extensive settlement in a now
inhospitable environment.

Some parts of the present Saharan desert may have been populated when the
The 16th-century Skálholt map of Norse
climate was cooler and wetter, judging by cave art and other signs of
settlement in Prehistoric Central North Africa.
Historical climatology 38

The Medieval Warm Period was a time of warm weather between

about AD 800–1300, during the European Medieval period.
Archaeological evidence supports studies of the Norse sagas whuich
describe the settlement of Greenland in the 9th century AD of land
now quite unsuitable for cultivation. For example, excavations at one
settlement site have shown the presence of birch trees during the early
Viking period. The same period records the discovery of an area called
Vinland, probably in North America, which may also have been
warmer than at present, judging by the alleged presence of grape vines.
One of Grimspound's hut circles
The interlude is known as the Medieval Warm Period.

Little Ice Age

Later examples include the Little Ice Age, well documented by paintings, documents (such as diaries) and events
such as the River Thames frost fairs held on frozen lakes and rivers in the 17th and 18th centuries. The River
Thames was made more narrow and flowed faster after old London Bridge was demolished in 1831, and the river
was embanked in stages during the 19th century, both of which made the river less liable to freezing. Among the
earliest references to the coming climate change is an entry in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles dated 1046:
• "And in this same year after the 2nd of February came the severe winter with frost and snow, and with all kinds of
bad weather, so that there was no man alive who could remember so severe a winter as that, both through
mortality of men and disease of cattle; both birds and fishes perished through the great cold and hunger."
The Chronicle is the single most important historical source for the period in England between the departure of the
Romans and the decades following the Norman Conquest. Much of the information given in the Chronicle is not
recorded elsewhere.
The Little Ice Age brought colder winters to parts of
Europe and North America. In the mid-17th century,
glaciers in the Swiss Alps advanced, gradually
engulfing farms and crushing entire villages. The River
Thames and the canals and rivers of the Netherlands
often froze over during the winter, and people skated
and even held frost fairs on the ice. The first Thames
frost fair was in 1607; the last in 1814, although
changes to the bridges and the addition of an
embankment affected the river flow and depth, hence
diminishing the possibility of freezes. The freeze of the The Frozen Thames, 1677

Golden Horn and the southern section of the Bosphorus

took place in 1622. In 1658, a Swedish army marched across the Great Belt to Denmark to invade Copenhagen. The
Baltic Sea froze over, enabling sledge rides from Poland to Sweden, with seasonal inns built on the way. The winter
of 1794/1795 was particularly harsh when the French invasion army under Pichegru could march on the frozen rivers
of the Netherlands, while the Dutch fleet was fixed in the ice in Den Helder harbour. In the winter of 1780, New
York Harbour froze, allowing people to walk from Manhattan to Staten Island. Sea ice surrounding Iceland extended
for miles in every direction, closing that island's harbours to shipping.
Historical climatology 39

The severe winters affected human life in ways large and small. The
population of Iceland fell by half, but this was perhaps also due to
fluorosis caused by the eruption of the volcano Laki in 1783.Iceland
also suffered failures of cereal crops and people moved away from a
grain-based diet. The Norse colonies in Greenland starved and
vanished (by the 15th century) as crops failed and livestock could not
be maintained through increasingly harsh winters, though Jared
Diamond noted that they had exceeded the agricultural carrying
The last written records of the Norse
capacity before then. In North America, American Indians formed
Greenlanders are from a 1408 marriage in the
church of Hvalsey — today the best-preserved of leagues in response to food shortages. In Southern Europe, in Portugal,
the Norse ruins. snow storms were much more frequent while today they are rare. There
are reports of heavy snowfalls in the winters of 1665, 1744 and 1886.
In contrast to its uncertain beginning, there is a consensus that the Little Ice Age ended in the mid-19th century.

Evidence of anthropogenic climate change

Through deforestation and agriculture, some scientists have proposed a human component in some historical climatic
changes. Human-started fires have been implicated in the transformation of much of Australia from grassland to
desert.[1] If true, this would show that even a primitive society could have a role in influencing regional climate.
Deforestation, desertification and the salinization of soils may have contributed to or caused other climatic changes
throughout human history.
For a discussion of recent human involvement in climatic changes, see Attribution of recent climate change.

[1] Miller GH, Fogel ML, Magee JW, Gagan MK, Clarke SJ, Johnson BJ (July 2005). "Ecosystem Collapse in Pleistocene Australia and a
Human Role in Megafaunal Extinction" (http:/ / www. sciencemag. org/ cgi/ content/ abstract/ 309/ 5732/ 287). Science 309 (5732): 287–290.
doi:10.1126/science.1111288. PMID 16002615. .

External links
• US Historical Climatology Network (
• Historical climatology and the cultural memory of extreme weather events (
podcast/podcast.html#29) - Exploring Environmental History Podcast featuring Christian Pfister
Paleoclimatology 40

Paleoclimatology (also
palaeoclimatology) is the study of
changes in climate taken on the scale
of the entire history of Earth. It uses a
variety of proxy methods from the
Earth and life sciences to obtain data
previously preserved within (e.g.)
rocks, sediments, ice sheets, tree rings,
corals, shells and microfossils; it then
uses these records to determine the
past states of the Earth's various
climate regions and its atmospheric system.

Paleoclimatology has wider implications for climate change today. Scientists often consider past changes in
environment and biodiversity to reflect on the current situation, and specifically the impact of climate on mass
extinctions and biotic recovery.[1]

Reconstructing ancient climates

Paleoclimatologists employ a wide variety of techniques to deduce ancient climates.
Mountain Glaciers and the polar ice caps/ice sheets are a widely employed source of data in paleoclimatology.
Recent ice coring projects in the ice caps of Greenland and Antarctica have yielded data going back several
hundred thousand years—over 800,000 years in the case of the EPICA project.
• Air trapped within fallen snow becomes encased in tiny bubbles as the snow is compressed into ice in the
glacier under the weight of later years' snow. This trapped air has proven a tremendously valuable source for
direct measurement of the composition of air from the time the ice was formed.
• Layering can be observed due to seasonal pauses in ice accumulation and can be used to establish chronology;
associating specific depths of the core with ranges of time.
• Changes in the layering thickness can be used to determine changes in precipitation or temperature.
• Oxygen-18 quantity changes (δ18O) in ice layers represent changes in average ocean surface temperature.
Water molecules containing the heavier O-18 evaporate at a higher temperature than water molecules
containing the normal Oxygen-16 isotope. The ratio of O-18 to O-16 will be higher as temperature increases
and less as temperature decreases. Various cycles in those isotope ratios have been detected.
• Pollen has been observed in the ice cores and can be used to understand which plants were present as the layer
formed. Pollen is produced in abundance and its distribution is typically well understood. A pollen count for a
specific layer can be produced by observing the total amount of pollen categorized by type (shape) in a
controlled sample of that layer. Changes in plant frequency over time can be plotted through statistical analysis
of pollen counts in the core. Knowing which plants were present leads to an understanding of precipitation and
temperature, and types of fauna present. Palynology includes the study of pollen for these purposes.
• Volcanic ash is contained in some layers, and can be used to establish the time of the layer's formation. Each
volcanic event distributed ash with a unique set of properties (shape and color of particles, chemical signature).
Establishing the ash's source will establish a range of time to associate with layer of ice.
Paleoclimatology 41

Climatic information can be obtained through an understanding of changes in tree growth. Generally, trees
respond to changes in climatic variables by speeding up or slowing down growth, which in turn is generally
reflected a greater or lesser thickness in growth rings. Different species, however, respond to changes in
climatic variables in different ways. A tree-ring record is established by compiling information from many
living trees in a specific area. Older intact wood that has escaped decay can extend the time covered by the
record by matching the ring depth changes to contemporary specimens. Using this method some areas have
tree-ring records dating back a few thousand years. Older wood not connected to a contemporary record can be
dated generally with radiocarbon techniques. A tree-ring record can be used to produce information regarding
precipitation, temperature, hydrology, and fire corresponding to a particular area.
On a longer time scale, geologists must refer to the sedimentary record for data.
Sedimentary content
• Sediments, sometimes lithified to form rock, may contain remnants of preserved vegetation, animals, plankton
or pollen, which may be characteristic of certain climatic zones.
• Biomarker molecules such as the alkenones may yield information about their temperature of formation.
• Chemical signatures, particularly Mg/Ca ratio of calcite in Foraminifera tests, can be used to reconstruct past
• Isotopic ratios can provide further information. Specifically, the δ18O record responds to changes in
temperature and ice volume, and the δ13C record reflects a range of factors, which are often difficult to
Sedimentary facies
On a longer time scale, the rock record may show signs of sea level rise and fall; further, features such as
"fossilised" sand dunes can be identified. Scientists can get a grasp of long term climate by studying
sedimentary rock going back billions of years. The division of earth history into separate periods is largely
based on visible changes in sedimentary rock layers that demarcate major changes in conditions. Often these
include major shifts in climate.
Corals (see also sclerochronology)
Coral "rings" are similar to tree rings, except they respond to different things, such as the water temperature
and wave action. From this source, certain equipment can be used to derive the sea surface temperature and
water salinity from the past few centuries. The δ18O of coraline red algae provides a useful proxy of sea
surface temperature at high latitudes, where many traditional techniques are limited.[2]

The oldest ice core taken was from the Antarctic and dates to 800,000 years old. An international effort is currently
being made in the same location to core to 1.2 million years ago. The deep marine record, the source of most isotopic
data, only exists on oceanic plates, which are eventually subducted — the oldest remaining material is 200 [3] million
years old. Older sediments are also more prone to corruption by diagenesis. Resolution and confidence in the data
decrease over time.
Paleoclimatology 42

Planet's timeline
Knowledge of precise climatic events decreases as the record goes further back in time. Some notable events are
noted below, with a timescale for context.
• Faint young Sun paradox (start)
• Huronian glaciation (~2400Mya Earth completely covered in ice probably due to Great Oxygenation Event)
• Later Neoproterozoic Snowball Earth (~600Mya, Precursor to the Cambrian Explosion)
• Andean-Saharan glaciation (~450Mya)
• Permian-Triassic extinction event (251.4Mya)
• Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (Paleocene-Eocene, 55Mya)
• Younger Dryas/The Big Freeze (~11Kya)
• Holocene climatic optimum (~7-3Kya)
• Climate changes of 535-536 (535-536 AD)
• Medieval warm period (900-1300)
• Little ice age (1300-1800)
• Year Without a Summer (1816)

Millions of Years

History of the atmosphere

Earliest atmosphere
The outgassings of the Earth was stripped away by solar winds early in
the history of the planet until a steady state was established, the first
atmosphere. Based on today's volcanic evidence, this atmosphere
would have contained 60% hydrogen, 20% oxygen (mostly in the form
of water vapor), 10% carbon dioxide, 5 to 7% hydrogen sulfide, and
smaller amounts of nitrogen, carbon monoxide, free hydrogen,
methane and inert gases.
Oxygen content of the atmosphere over the last
A major rainfall led to the buildup of a vast ocean, enriching the other billion years
agents, first carbon dioxide and later nitrogen and inert gases. A major
part of carbon dioxide exhalations were soon dissolved in water and built up carbonate sediments.
Paleoclimatology 43

Second atmosphere
As early as 3.8 billion years ago, water related sediments have been found.[4] About 3.4 billion years ago, nitrogen
was the major part of the then stable second atmosphere. An influence of life has to be taken into account rather soon
since hints on early life forms are to be found as early as 3.5 billion years ago.[5] The fact that this is not in line with
the — compared to today 30% lower — solar radiance of the early sun has been described as the faint young Sun
The geological record, however, shows a continually relatively warm
surface during the complete early temperature record of the earth with
the exception of one cold glacial phase about 2.4 billion years ago. In
the late Archean Era an oxygen containing atmosphere began to
develop from photosynthesizing algae. The early basic carbon isotopy
is very much in line with what is found today [6] As Jan Veizer
assumed that not only did we have life as far back as we had rocks, but
there was as much life then as today and the fundamental features of
the carbon cycle were established as early as 4 billion years ago.[6] 500 million years of changes in carbon dioxide

Third atmosphere
The accretion of continents about 3.5 billion years ago[7] added plate tectonics, constantly rearranging the continents
and also shaping long-term climate evolution by allowing the transfer of carbon dioxide to large land-based
carbonate storages. Free oxygen did not exist until about 1.7 billion years ago and this can be seen with the
development of the red beds and the end of the banded iron formations. This signifies a shift from a reducing
atmosphere to an oxidising atmosphere. O2 showed major ups and downs until reaching a steady state of more than
15%.[8] The following time span was the Phanerozoic, during which oxygen-breathing metazoan life forms began to

Climate during geological ages

Precambrian climate
In the first three quarters of the Earth's history, only one major glaciation is to be found in the geological record.
Since about 950 million years ago, the Earth's climate has varied regularly between large-scale or just polar cap wide
glaciation and extensively tropical climates. The time scale for this variation is roughly 140 million years and may be
related to Earth's motion into and out of galactic spiral arms and compared to the previous time, significantly reduced
solar wind.[9]
The climate of the late Precambrian showed some major glaciation events spreading over much of the earth. At this
time the continents were bunched up in the Rodinia supercontinent. Massive deposits of tillites are found and
anomalous isotopic signatures are found, which gave rise to the Snowball Earth hypothesis. As the Proterozoic Eon
drew to a close, the Earth started to warm up. By the dawn of the Cambrian and the Phanerozoic, life forms were
abundant in the Cambrian explosion with average global temperatures of about 22 °C.
Paleoclimatology 44

Phanerozoic climate
Major drivers for the preindustrial ages have been variations of the sun,
volcanic ashes and exhalations, relative movements of the earth
towards the sun and tectonically induced effects as for major sea
currents, watersheds and ocean oscillations. In the early Phanerozoic,
increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations have been linked
to driving or amplifying increased global temperatures.[10] Royer et al.
2004[11] found a climate sensitivity for the rest of the Phanerozoic
which was calculated to be similar to today's modern range of values.

The difference in global mean temperatures between a fully glacial 500 million years of climate change

Earth and an ice free Earth is estimated at approximately 10 °C, though

far larger changes would be observed at high latitudes and smaller ones at low latitudes. One requirement for the
development of large scale ice sheets seems to be the arrangement of continental land masses at or near the poles.
The constant rearrangement of continents by plate tectonics can also shape long-term climate evolution. However,
the presence or absence of land masses at the poles is not sufficient to guarantee glaciations or exclude polar ice
caps. Evidence exists of past warm periods in Earth's climate when polar land masses similar to Antarctica were
home to deciduous forests rather than ice sheets.

The relatively warm local minimum between Jurassic and Cretaceous

goes along with widespread tectonic activity, e.g. the breakup of
Superimposed on the long-term evolution between hot and cold
climates have been many short-term fluctuations in climate similar to,
and sometimes more severe than, the varying glacial and interglacial Phanerozoic till today's temperature record
states of the present ice age. Some of the most severe fluctuations, such
as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, may be related to rapid climate changes due to sudden collapses of
natural methane clathrate reservoirs in the oceans.

A similar, single event of induced severe climate change after a meteorite impact has been proposed as reason for the
Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event. Other major thresholds are the Permian-Triassic, and Ordovician-Silurian
extinction events with various reasons suggested.
Paleoclimatology 45

Quaternary sub-era
The Quaternary sub-era includes the current climate. There has been a cycle of ice ages for the past 2.2–2.1 million
years (starting before the Quaternary in the late Neogene Period).
Note in the graphic on the right the strong 120,000-year periodicity of
the cycles, and the striking asymmetry of the curves. This asymmetry
is believed to result from complex interactions of feedback
mechanisms. It has been observed that ice ages deepen by progressive
steps, but the recovery to interglacial conditions occurs in one big step.

Controlling Factors

Short term (104 to 106 years) Ice core data for the past 400,000 years. Note
length of glacial cycles averages ~100,000 years.
Geologically short-term (<120,000 year) temperatures are believed to Blue curve is temperature, green curve is CO2,
be driven by orbital factors (see Milankovitch cycles) amplified by and red curve is windblown glacial dust (loess).
changes in greenhouse gases. The arrangements of land masses on the Today's date is on the left side of the graph.

Earth's surface are believed to influence the effectiveness of these

orbital forcing effects.

Medium term (106 to 108 years)

Continental drift affects the thermohaline circulation, which transfers heat between the equatorial regions and the
poles, as does the extent of polar ice coverage.
The timing of ice ages throughout geologic history is in part controlled by the position of the continental plates on
the surface of the Earth. When landmasses are concentrated near the polar regions, there is an increased chance for
snow and ice to accumulate. Small changes in solar energy can tip the balance between summers in which the winter
snow mass completely melts and summers in which the winter snow persists until the following winter. See the web
site Paleomap Project [12] for images of the polar landmass distributions through time.
Comparisons of plate tectonic continent reconstructions and paleoclimatic studies show that the Milankovitch cycles
have the greatest effect during geologic eras when landmasses have been concentrated in polar regions, as is the case
today. Today, Greenland, Antarctica, and the northern portions of Europe, Asia, and North America are situated such
that a minor change in solar energy will tip the balance between year-round snow/ice preservation and complete
summer melting. The presence of snow and ice is a well-understood positive feedback mechanism for climate. The
Earth today is considered to be prone to ice age glaciations.
Another proposed factor in long term temperature change is the Uplift-Weathering Hypothesis, first put forward by
T. C. Chamberlin in 1899 and later independently proposed in 1988 by Maureen Raymo and colleagues, where
upthrusting mountain ranges expose minerals to weathering resulting in their chemical conversion to carbonates
thereby removing CO2 from the atmosphere and cooling the earth. Others have proposed similar effects due to
changes in average water table levels and consequent changes in sub-surface biological activity and PH levels.
Paleoclimatology 46

Long term (108 to 109 years)

It has been proposed that long term galactic motions of
the sun have a major influence on the Earth's climate.
There are two principal motions, the first and most
significant is the orbit of the sun around the galactic
centre with a period of the order of 240 million
years.[14] Since this period is different from the rotation
period of the galactic spiral arms, the sun, and the earth
with it, will periodically pass through the arms
(estimates of the period are uncertain and vary from
143 million years[13] to 176 million years[15] ). The
Correlation between variations in cosmic ray flux (red) and
second is an oscillatory bobbing motion, similar to a
change in sea temperature (black). Data as presented by Shaviv &
floating buoy, which will periodically take the sun [13]
through the galactic disc. The period of this bobbing
motion is 67 million years, so a pass through the galactic plane will occur every 33 million years.[16] The causal link
between these galactic motions and climate is unclear but one (controversial) postulate is the effect that entering a
denser region of the galaxy will have on increasing the cosmic ray flux (CRF).[13] This theory has been criticised,
both for overstating the correlation with CRF and for failing to propose a believable mechanism that would allow
CRF to drive temperature.[11] The claims by Henrik Svensmark that CRF also strongly affects short term climate
changes is even more controversial and has been challenged by many.[17] [18]

It has also been suggested that there is some correlation between these galactic cycles and geological periods. The
reason for this is postulated to be that the earth experiences many more impact events while passing through high
density regions of the galaxy. Both the climate changes and sudden impacts may cause, or contribute to, extinction

Very long term (109 years or more)

Jan Veizer[6] and Nir Shaviv[13] have proposed the interaction of cosmic rays, solar wind and the various magnetic
fields to explain the long term evolution of earth's climate. According to Shaviv, the early sun had emitted a stronger
solar wind with a protective effect against cosmic rays. In that early age, a moderate greenhouse effect comparable to
today's would have been sufficient to explain an ice free earth and the faint young sun paradox.[19] The solar
minimum around 2.4 billion years ago is consistent with an established cosmic ray flux modulation by a variable star
formation rate in the Milky Way and there is also a hint of an extinction event at this time. Within the last billion
years the solar wind has significantly diminished. It is only within this more recent time that passages of the
heliosphere through the spiral arms of the galaxy have been able to gain a strong and regularly modulating influence
as described above.
Over the very long term the energy output of the sun has gradually increased, on the order of 5% per billion (109)
years, and will continue to do so until it reaches the end of its current phase of stellar evolution.
Paleoclimatology 47


[1] Sahney, S. and Benton, M.J. (2008). "Recovery from the most profound mass extinction of all time" (http:/ / journals. royalsociety. org/
content/ qq5un1810k7605h5/ fulltext. pdf) (PDF). Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological 275 (1636): 759. doi:10.1098/rspb.2007.1370.
PMC 2596898. PMID 18198148. .
[2] Halfar, J.; Steneck, R.S.; Joachimski, M.; Kronz, A.; Wanamaker, A.D. (2008). "Coralline red algae as high-resolution climate recorders".
Geology 36: 463. doi:10.1130/G24635A.1.
[3] http:/ / toolserver. org/ ~verisimilus/ Timeline/ Timeline. php?Ma=200
[4] Windley, B. (1984). The Evolving Continents. New York: Wiley Press. ISBN 0471903760.
[5] J. Schopf (1983). Earth’s Earliest Biosphere: Its Origin and Evolution. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0691083231.
[6] Veizer, J. (2005). Celestial climate driver: a perspective from four billion years of the carbon cycle. Geoscience Canada
[7] Veizer (1976). Windley, B.F.. ed. The Early History of the Earth. London: John Wiley and Sons. p. 569.
[8] Summary Chart for the Precambrian (http:/ / www. scotese. com/ precamb_chart. htm)
[9] Shaviv N.J. (2002). "Cosmic Ray Diffusion from the Galactic Spiral Arms, Iron Meteorites and a possible Climatic Connection". Physical
Review Letters 89 (5): 051102. Bibcode 2002PhRvL..89e1102S. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.89.051102. PMID 12144433.
[10] Rosemarie E. Came, John M. Eiler, Jan Veizer, Karem Azmy, Uwe Brand & Christopher R. Weidman (September 2007). "Coupling of
surface temperatures and atmospheric CO2 concentrations during the Palaeozoic era". Nature 449 (7159): 198–201. doi:10.1038/nature06085.
PMID 17851520.
[11] Royer, Dana L. and Robert A. Berner, Isabel P. Montañez, Neil J. Tabor, David J. Beerling (July 2004). "CO2 as a primary driver of
Phanerozoic climate" (http:/ / www. gsajournals. org/ gsaonline/ ?request=get-document& issn=1052-5173& volume=014& issue=03&
page=0004). GSA Today 14 (3): 4–10. doi:10.1130/1052-5173(2004)014<4:CAAPDO>2.0.CO;2. .
[12] http:/ / www. scotese. com/ earth. htm
[13] Shaviv, NJ, Veizer, J (July 2003). "Celestial driver of Phanerozoic climate?". GSA Today 7 (7): 4–10., see also online version (http:/ / www.
gsajournals. org/ perlserv/ ?request=get-document& doi=10. 1130/ 1052-5173(2003)013<0004:CDOPC>2. 0. CO;2) or online discussion
(http:/ / www. sciencebits. com/ ice-ages)
[14] Borrero, Hess et al. (2008). Earth Science: Geology, the Environment, and the Universe. Glencoe: McGraw-Hill. p. 348.
ISBN 0-07-875045-8.
[15] Gillman, M, Erenler, H (2008). "The galactic cycle of extinction". International Journal of Astrobiology 7.
[16] Huggett, RJ (2003). Environmental Change the Evolving Ecosphere. Routledge. p. 48. ISBN 0-415-14520-1.
[17] Schmidt, Gavin (2007-06-01). "Clouding the issue of climate" (http:/ / physicsworld. com/ cws/ article/ print/ 30103). Physics World. .
[18] K. S. Carslaw, R. G. Harrison, J. Kirkby (November 2002). "Atmospheric Science: Cosmic Rays, Clouds, and Climate". Science 298 (5599):
1732–7. doi:10.1126/science.1076964. PMID 12459578.
[19] Shaviv, N. J. (2003). "Toward a solution to the early faint Sun paradox: A lower cosmic ray flux from a stronger solar wind". J. Geophys.
Res. 108 (A12): 1437. arXiv:astro-ph/0306477. Bibcode 2003JGRA..108.1437S. doi:10.1029/2003JA009997.

• Bradley, Raymond S. (1985). Quaternary paleoclimatology: methods of paleoclimatic reconstruction. Boston:
Allen & Unwin. ISBN 0-04-551067-9.
• Imbrie, John (1986, c1979). Ice ages: solving the mystery. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.
ISBN 0674440757.
• Margulis, Lynn; Sagan, Dorion (1986). Origins of sex: three billion years of genetic recombination. The
Bio-origins series. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-03340-0.
• Gould, Stephen Jay (1989). Wonderful life, the story of the Burgess Shale. New York: W.W. Norton.
ISBN 0-393-02705-8.
• Crowley, Thomas J.; North, Gerald R. (1996). Paleoclimatology. Oxford monographs on geology and geophysics.
18. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-510533-8.
• Karl-Heinz Ludwig: Eine kurze Geschichte des Klimas. Von der Entstehung der Erde bis heute, (A short history
of climate, From the evolution of earth till today) Herbst 2006, ISBN 3-406-54746
• William F. Ruddimann (2001). Earth's Climate — Past and Future. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0-7167-3741-8.
• B. Windley (1984). The Evolving Continents. New York: Wiley Press.
Paleoclimatology 48

• Drummond, Carl N. and Wilkinson, Bruce H. (2006). "Interannual Variability in Climate Data". Journal of
Geology 114: 325–339. Bibcode 2006JG....114..325D. doi:10.1086/500992.

External links
• A Brief Introduction to History of Climate (
html), an excellent overview by Prof. Richard A Muller of UC Berkley.
• NOAA Paleoclimatology (
• AGU Paleoclimatology and climate system dynamics (
• Paleoclimatology in the 21st century (
• Environmental Literacy Council (
• Climate change and Palaeoclimatology ( News Archive
• The Uplift-Weathering Hypothesis (
• NASA's GISS paleoclimate site (
• CalPal — Cologne Radiocarbon Calibration & Paleoclimate Research Package (
• W. F. Ruddiman (2006). "Ice-driven CO2 feedback on ice volume" (
2/43/cpd-2-43_p.pdf). Clim. Past 2 (1): 43–55. doi:10.5194/cp-2-43-2006.
• Rapid Climate Change (
• Short history of climate (

Biofuels are a wide range of fuels which are in some way derived from
biomass. The term covers solid biomass, liquid fuels and various
biogases.[1] Biofuels are gaining increased public and scientific
attention, driven by factors such as oil price spikes, the need for
increased energy security, concern over greenhouse gas emissions from
fossil fuels, and government subsidies.

Bioethanol is an alcohol made by fermenting the sugar components of

plant materials and it is made mostly from sugar and starch crops. With
advanced technology being developed, cellulosic biomass, such as Information on pump regarding ethanol fuel
trees and grasses, are also used as feedstocks for ethanol production. blend up to 10%, California

Ethanol can be used as a fuel for vehicles in its pure form, but it is
usually used as a gasoline additive to increase octane and improve
vehicle emissions. Bioethanol is widely used in the USA and in Brazil.

Biodiesel is made from vegetable oils, animal fats or recycled greases.

Biodiesel can be used as a fuel for vehicles in its pure form, but it is
usually used as a diesel additive to reduce levels of particulates, carbon
monoxide, and hydrocarbons from diesel-powered vehicles. Biodiesel
is produced from oils or fats using transesterification and is the most
common biofuel in Europe.
Bus run on biodiesel
Biofuels provided 1.8% of the world's transport fuel in 2008.
Investment into biofuels production capacity exceeded $4 billion worldwide in 2007 and is growing.[2] According to
Biofuel 49

the International Energy Agency, biofuels have the potential to meet more than a quarter of world demand for
transportation fuels by 2050.[3]

Liquid fuels for transportation

Most transportation fuels are liquids, because vehicles usually require high energy density, as occurs in liquids and
solids. High power density can be provided most inexpensively by an internal combustion engine; these engines
require clean burning fuels, to keep the engine clean and minimize air pollution.
The fuels that are easiest to burn cleanly are typically liquids and gases. Thus liquids (and gases that can be stored in
liquid form) meet the requirements of being both portable and clean burning. Also, liquids and gases can be pumped,
which means handling is easily mechanized, and thus less laborious.

First generation biofuels

'First-generation' or conventional biofuels are biofuels made from sugar, starch, and vegetable oil.


Biologically produced alcohols, most commonly ethanol, and less

commonly propanol and butanol, are produced by the action of
microorganisms and enzymes through the fermentation of sugars or
starches (easiest), or cellulose (which is more difficult). Biobutanol
(also called biogasoline) is often claimed to provide a direct
replacement for gasoline, because it can be used directly in a gasoline
engine (in a similar way to biodiesel in diesel engines).

Ethanol fuel is the most common biofuel worldwide, particularly in

Neat ethanol on the left (A), gasoline on the right
Brazil. Alcohol fuels are produced by fermentation of sugars derived (G) at a filling station in Brazil
from wheat, corn, sugar beets, sugar cane, molasses and any sugar or
starch that alcoholic beverages can be made from (like potato and fruit waste, etc.). The ethanol production methods
used are enzyme digestion (to release sugars from stored starches), fermentation of the sugars, distillation and
drying. The distillation process requires significant energy input for heat (often unsustainable natural gas fossil fuel,
but cellulosic biomass such as bagasse, the waste left after sugar cane is pressed to extract its juice, can also be used
more sustainably).

Ethanol can be used in petrol engines as a replacement for gasoline; it can be mixed with gasoline to any percentage.
Most existing car petrol engines can run on blends of up to 15% bioethanol with petroleum/gasoline. Ethanol has a
smaller energy density than gasoline, which means it takes more fuel (volume and mass) to produce the same amount
of work. An advantage of ethanol (CH3CH2OH) is that it has a higher octane rating than ethanol-free gasoline
available at roadside gas stations which allows an increase of an engine's compression ratio for increased thermal
efficiency. In high altitude (thin air) locations, some states mandate a mix of gasoline and ethanol as a winter
oxidizer to reduce atmospheric pollution emissions.

Ethanol is also used to fuel bioethanol fireplaces. As they do not require a chimney and are "flueless", bio ethanol
fires[4] are extremely useful for new build homes and apartments without a flue. The downside to these fireplaces, is
that the heat output is slightly less than electric and gas fires.
In the current alcohol-from-corn production model in the United States, considering the total energy consumed by
farm equipment, cultivation, planting, fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides made from petroleum,
irrigation systems, harvesting, transport of feedstock to processing plants, fermentation, distillation, drying, transport
to fuel terminals and retail pumps, and lower ethanol fuel energy content, the net energy content value added and
delivered to consumers is very small. And, the net benefit (all things considered) does little to reduce imported oil
Biofuel 50

and fossil fuels required to produce the ethanol.[5]

Although ethanol-from-corn and other food stocks has implications both in terms of world food prices and limited,
yet positive energy yield (in terms of energy delivered to customer/fossil fuels used), the technology has led to the
development of cellulosic ethanol. According to a joint research agenda conducted through the U.S. Department of
Energy,[6] the fossil energy ratios (FER) for cellulosic ethanol, corn ethanol, and gasoline are 10.3, 1.36, and 0.81,
respectively.[7] [8] [9]
Even dry ethanol has roughly one-third lower energy content per unit of volume compared to gasoline, so larger /
heavier fuel tanks are required to travel the same distance, or more fuel stops are required. With large current
unsustainable, non-scalable subsidies, ethanol fuel still costs much more per distance traveled than current high
gasoline prices in the United States.[10]
Methanol is currently produced from natural gas, a non-renewable fossil fuel. It can also be produced from biomass
as biomethanol. The methanol economy is an interesting alternative to get to the hydrogen economy, compared to
today's hydrogen production from natural gas. But this process is not the state-of-the-art clean solar thermal energy
process where hydrogen production is directly produced from water.[11]
Butanol is formed by ABE fermentation (acetone, butanol, ethanol) and experimental modifications of the process
show potentially high net energy gains with butanol as the only liquid product. Butanol will produce more energy
and allegedly can be burned "straight" in existing gasoline engines (without modification to the engine or car),[12]
and is less corrosive and less water soluble than ethanol, and could be distributed via existing infrastructures. DuPont
and BP are working together to help develop Butanol. E. coli have also been successfully engineered to produce
Butanol by hijacking their amino acid metabolism.[13]


Biodiesel is the most common biofuel in Europe. It is produced from

oils or fats using transesterification and is a liquid similar in
composition to fossil/mineral diesel. Chemically, it consists mostly of
fatty acid methyl (or ethyl) esters (FAMEs). Feedstocks for biodiesel
include animal fats, vegetable oils, soy, rapeseed, jatropha, mahua,
mustard, flax, sunflower, palm oil, hemp, field pennycress, pongamia
pinnata and algae. Pure biodiesel (B100) is the lowest emission diesel
fuel. Although liquefied petroleum gas and hydrogen have cleaner
combustion, they are used to fuel much less efficient petrol engines
and are not as widely available.

Biodiesel can be used in any diesel engine when mixed with mineral
diesel. In some countries manufacturers cover their diesel engines
under warranty for B100 use, although Volkswagen of Germany, for
example, asks drivers to check by telephone with the VW
environmental services department before switching to B100. B100
may become more viscous at lower temperatures, depending on the
feedstock used. In most cases, biodiesel is compatible with diesel
engines from 1994 onwards, which use 'Viton' (by DuPont) synthetic In some countries biodiesel is less expensive than
rubber in their mechanical fuel injection systems. conventional diesel.

Electronically controlled 'common rail' and 'unit injector' type systems

from the late 1990s onwards may only use biodiesel blended with conventional diesel fuel. These engines have
finely metered and atomized multi-stage injection systems that are very sensitive to the viscosity of the fuel. Many
current generation diesel engines are made so that they can run on B100 without altering the engine itself, although
Biofuel 51

this depends on the fuel rail design. Since biodiesel is an effective solvent and cleans residues deposited by mineral
diesel, engine filters may need to be replaced more often, as the biofuel dissolves old deposits in the fuel tank and
pipes. It also effectively cleans the engine combustion chamber of carbon deposits, helping to maintain efficiency. In
many European countries, a 5% biodiesel blend is widely used and is available at thousands of gas stations.[14] [15]
Biodiesel is also an oxygenated fuel, meaning that it contains a reduced amount of carbon and higher hydrogen and
oxygen content than fossil diesel. This improves the combustion of fossil diesel and reduces the particulate emissions
from un-burnt carbon.
Biodiesel is also safe to handle and transport because it is as biodegradable as sugar, 10 times less toxic than table
salt, and has a high flash point of about 300 F (148 C) compared to petroleum diesel fuel, which has a flash point of
125 F (52 C).[16]
In the USA, more than 80% of commercial trucks and city buses run on diesel. The emerging US biodiesel market is
estimated to have grown 200% from 2004 to 2005. "By the end of 2006 biodiesel production was estimated to
increase fourfold [from 2004] to more than 1 billion gallons".[17]

Green diesel
Green diesel, also known as renewable diesel, is a form of diesel fuel which is derived from renewable feedstock
rather than the fossil feedstock used in most diesel fuels. Green diesel feedstock can be sourced from a variety of oils
including canola, algae, jatropha and salicornia in addition to tallow. Green diesel uses traditional fractional
distillation to process the oils, not to be confused with biodiesel which is chemically quite different and processed
using transesterification.
“Green Diesel” as commonly known in Ireland should not be confused with dyed green diesel sold at a lower tax rate
for agriculture purposes, using the dye allows custom officers to determine if a person is using the cheaper diesel in
higher taxed applications such as commercial haulage or cars.[18]
Biofuel 52

Vegetable oil

Straight unmodified edible vegetable oil is generally not used as fuel, but
lower quality oil can and has been used for this purpose. Used vegetable oil is
increasingly being processed into biodiesel, or (more rarely) cleaned of water
and particulates and used as a fuel.
Also here, as with 100% biodiesel (B100), to ensure that the fuel injectors
atomize the vegetable oil in the correct pattern for efficient combustion,
vegetable oil fuel must be heated to reduce its viscosity to that of diesel, either
by electric coils or heat exchangers. This is easier in warm or temperate
climates. Big corporations like MAN B&W Diesel, Wärtsilä, and Deutz AG as
well as a number of smaller companies such as Elsbett offer engines that are
compatible with straight vegetable oil, without the need for after-market

Vegetable oil can also be used in many older diesel engines that do not use
common rail or unit injection electronic diesel injection systems. Due to the
design of the combustion chambers in indirect injection engines, these are the
best engines for use with vegetable oil. This system allows the relatively larger
oil molecules more time to burn. Some older engines, especially Mercedes are
driven experimentally by enthusiasts without any conversion, a handful of
drivers have experienced limited success with earlier pre-"Pumpe Duse" VW
TDI engines and other similar engines with direct injection. Several
companies like Elsbett or Wolf [19] have developed professional conversion
kits and successfully installed hundreds of them over the last decades.
Filtered waste vegetable oil
Oils and fats can be hydrogenated to give a diesel substitute. The resulting
product is a straight chain hydrocarbon with a high cetane number, low in aromatics and sulfur and does not contain
oxygen. Hydrogenated oils can be blended with diesel in all proportions Hydrogenated oils have several advantages
over biodiesel, including good performance at low temperatures, no storage stability problems and no susceptibility
to microbial attack.[20]
Biofuel 53

Bio ethers (also referred to as fuel ethers or oxygenated fuels) are cost-effective compounds that act as octane rating
enhancers. They also enhance engine performance, whilst significantly reducing engine wear and toxic exhaust
emissions. Greatly reducing the amount of ground-level ozone, they contribute to the quality of the air we
breathe.[21] [22]


Biogas is methane produced by the process of anaerobic digestion of organic

material by anaerobes.[23] It can be produced either from biodegradable waste
materials or by the use of energy crops fed into anaerobic digesters to
supplement gas yields. The solid byproduct, digestate, can be used as a
biofuel or a fertilizer.
• Biogas can be recovered from mechanical biological treatment waste
processing systems.
Note:Landfill gas is a less clean form of biogas which is produced in
landfills through naturally occurring anaerobic digestion. If it escapes
into the atmosphere it is a potential greenhouse gas.
• Farmers can produce biogas from manure from their cows by using an
anaerobic digester (AD).[24]
Pipes carrying biogas

Syngas, a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, is produced by partial combustion of biomass, that is,
combustion with an amount of oxygen that is not sufficient to convert the biomass completely to carbon dioxide and
water.[20] Before partial combustion the biomass is dried, and sometimes pyrolysed. The resulting gas mixture,
syngas, is more efficient than direct combustion of the original biofuel; more of the energy contained in the fuel is
• Syngas may be burned directly in internal combustion engines or turbines. The wood gas generator is a
wood-fueled gasification reactor mounted on an internal combustion engine.
• Syngas can be used to produce methanol, DME and hydrogen, or converted via the Fischer-Tropsch process to
produce a diesel substitute, or a mixture of alcohols that can be blended into gasoline. Gasification normally relies
on temperatures >700°C.
• Lower temperature gasification is desirable when co-producing biochar but results in a Syngas polluted with tar.

Solid biofuels
Examples include wood, sawdust, grass cuttings, domestic refuse, charcoal, agricultural waste, non-food energy
crops (see picture), and dried manure.
When raw biomass is already in a suitable form (such as firewood), it can burn directly in a stove or furnace to
provide heat or raise steam. When raw biomass is in an inconvenient form (such as sawdust, wood chips, grass,
urban waste wood, agricultural residues), the typical process is to densify the biomass. This process includes
grinding the raw biomass to an appropriate particulate size (known as hogfuel), which depending on the densification
type can be from 1 to 3 cm (1 in), which is then concentrated into a fuel product. The current types of processes are
wood pellet, cube, or puck. The pellet process is most common in Europe and is typically a pure wood product. The
other types of densification are larger in size compared to a pellet and are compatible with a broad range of input
Biofuel 54

feedstocks. The resulting densified fuel is easier to transport and feed into thermal generation systems such as
A problem with the combustion of raw biomass is that it emits considerable amounts of pollutants such as
particulates and PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons). Even modern pellet boilers generate much more
pollutants than oil or natural gas boilers. Pellets made from agricultural residues are usually worse than wood pellets,
producing much larger emissions of dioxins and chlorophenols.[25]
Notwithstanding the above noted study, numerous studies have shown that biomass fuels have significantly less
impact on the environment than fossil based fuels. Of note is the U.S. Department of Energy Laboratory, Operated
by Midwest Research Institute Biomass Power and Conventional Fossil Systems with and without CO2
Sequestration – Comparing the Energy Balance, Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Economics Study. Power
generation emits significant amounts of greenhouse gases (GHGs), mainly carbon dioxide (CO2). Sequestering CO2
from the power plant flue gas can significantly reduce the GHGs from the power plant itself, but this is not the total
picture. CO2 capture and sequestration consumes additional energy, thus lowering the plant's fuel-to-electricity
efficiency. To compensate for this, more fossil fuel must be procured and consumed to make up for lost capacity.
Taking this into consideration, the global warming potential (GWP), which is a combination of CO2, methane (CH4),
and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions, and energy balance of the system need to be examined using a life cycle
assessment. This takes into account the upstream processes which remain constant after CO2 sequestration as well as
the steps required for additional power generation. firing biomass instead of coal led to a 148% reduction in GWP.
A derivative of solid biofuel is biochar, which is produced by biomass pyrolysis. Bio-char made from agricultural
waste can substitute for wood charcoal. As wood stock becomes scarce this alternative is gaining ground. In eastern
Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, biomass briquettes are being marketed as an alternative to charcoal in
order to protect Virunga National Park from deforestation associated with charcoal production.[26]

Advanced biofuels
Advanced biofuels can refer to any biofuel made by a novel method and/or that gives a better product than current
biofuels.[27] Second, third, and fourth generation biofuels are also called advanced biofuels.

Second generation biofuels

Supporters of biofuels claim that a more viable solution is to increase political and industrial support for, and rapidity
of, second-generation biofuel implementation from non-food crops. These include waste biomass, the stalks of
wheat, corn, wood, and special-energy-or-biomass crops (e.g. Miscanthus). Some second generation (2G) biofuels
use biomass to liquid technology,[28] including cellulosic biofuels.[29] Many second generation biofuels are under
development such as biohydrogen, biomethanol, DMF, BioDME, Fischer-Tropsch diesel, biohydrogen diesel, mixed
alcohols and wood diesel.
Cellulosic ethanol production uses non-food crops or inedible waste products and does not divert food away from the
animal or human food chain. Lignocellulose is the "woody" structural material of plants. This feedstock is abundant
and diverse, and in some cases (like citrus peels or sawdust) it is in itself a significant disposal problem.
Producing ethanol from cellulose is a difficult technical problem to solve. In nature, ruminant livestock (like cattle)
eat grass and then use slow enzymatic digestive processes to break it into glucose (sugar). In cellulosic ethanol
laboratories, various experimental processes are being developed to do the same thing, and then the sugars released
can be fermented to make ethanol fuel. In 2009 scientists reported developing, using "synthetic biology", "15 new
highly stable fungal enzyme catalysts that efficiently break down cellulose into sugars at high temperatures", adding
to the 10 previously known.[30] The use of high temperatures, has been identified as an important factor in improving
the overall economic feasibility of the biofuel industry and the identification of enzymes that are stable and can
operate efficiently at extreme temperatures is an area of active research.[31] In addition, research conducted at TU
Delft by Jack Pronk has shown that elephant yeast, when slightly modified can also create ethanol from non-edible
Biofuel 55

ground sources (e.g. straw).[32] [33]

The recent discovery of the fungus Gliocladium roseum points toward the production of so-called myco-diesel from
cellulose. This organism was recently discovered in the rainforests of northern Patagonia and has the unique
capability of converting cellulose into medium length hydrocarbons typically found in diesel fuel.[34] Scientists also
work on experimental recombinant DNA genetic engineering organisms that could increase biofuel potential.
Scientists working in New Zealand have developed a technology to use industrial waste gases from steel mills as a
feedstock for a microbial fermentation process to produce ethanol.[35] [36]

Third generation biofuels

Algae fuel, also called oilgae or third generation biofuel, is a biofuel from algae. Algae are low-input, high-yield
feedstocks to produce biofuels.[37] Based on laboratory experiments, it is claimed that algae can produce up to 30
times more energy per acre than land crops such as soybeans,[38] but these yields have yet to be produced
commercially. With the higher prices of fossil fuels (petroleum), there is much interest in algaculture (farming
algae). One advantage of many biofuels over most other fuel types is that they are biodegradable, and so relatively
harmless to the environment if spilled.[39] [40] [41] Algae fuel still has its difficulties though, for instance to produce
algae fuels it must be mixed uniformly, which, if done by agitation, could affect biomass growth.[42]
The United States Department of Energy estimates that if algae fuel replaced all the petroleum fuel in the United
States, it would require only 15,000 square miles (38,849 square kilometers), which is roughly the size of
Maryland,[38] or less than one seventh the amount of land devoted to corn in 2000.[43]
Algae, such as Botryococcus braunii and Chlorella vulgaris are relatively easy to grow,[44] but the algal oil is hard to
extract. There are several approaches, some of which work better than others.[45] Macroalgae (seaweed) also have a
great potential for bioethanol and biogas production.[46]
Ethanol from living algae
Most biofuel production comes from harvesting organic matter and then converting it to fuel but an alternative
approach relies on the fact that some algae naturally produce ethanol and this can be collected without killing the
algae. The ethanol evaporates and then can be condensed and collected. The company Algenol is trying to
commercialize this process.
However, if biocatalytic cracking and traditional fractional distillation are used to process properly prepared algal
biomass, i.e. biocrude,[47] then distillates can be produced, such as jet fuel, gasoline, diesel and others.

Fourth generation biofuels

A number of companies are pursuing advanced "bio-chemical" and "thermo-chemical" processes that produce "drop
in" fuels like "green gasoline," "green diesel," and "green aviation fuel." While there is no one established definition
of "fourth-generation biofuels," some have referred to it as the biofuels created from processes other than first
generation ethanol and biodiesel, second generation cellulosic ethanol, and third generation algae biofuel. Some
fourth generation technology pathways include: pyrolysis, gasification, upgrading, solar-to-fuel, and genetic
manipulation of organisms to secrete hydrocarbons.[48]
• GreenFuel Technologies Corporation developed a patented bioreactor system that uses nontoxic photosynthetic
algae to take in smokestacks flue gases and produce biofuels such as biodiesel, biogas and a dry fuel comparable
to coal.[49]
• With thermal depolymerization of biological waste one can extract methane and other oils similar to petroleum.
Hydrocarbon plants or petroleum plants are plants which produce terpenoids as secondary metabolites that can be
converted to gasoline-like fuels. Latex producing members of the Euphorbiaceae such as Euphorbia lathyris and E.
tirucalli and members of Apocynaceae have been studied for their potential energy uses.[50] [51]
Biofuel 56

Biofuels by region
There are international organizations such as IEA Bioenergy,[52] established in 1978 by the OECD International
Energy Agency (IEA), with the aim of improving cooperation and information exchange between countries that have
national programs in bioenergy research, development and deployment. The U.N. International Biofuels Forum is
formed by Brazil, China, India, South Africa, the United States and the European Commission.[53] The world leaders
in biofuel development and use are Brazil, United States, France, Sweden and Germany. Russia also has 22% of
worlds forest[54] and is a big biomass (solid biofuels) supplier. In 2010, Russian pulp and paper maker, Vyborgskaya
Cellulose, said they would be producing pellets that can be used in heat and electricity generation from its plant in
Vyborg by the end of the year.[55] The plant will eventually produce about 900,000 tons of pellets per year, making it
the largest in the world once operational.

Issues with biofuel production and use

There are various social, economic, environmental and technical issues with biofuel production and use, which have
been discussed in the popular media and scientific journals. These include: the effect of moderating oil prices, the
"food vs fuel" debate, poverty reduction potential, carbon emissions levels, sustainable biofuel production,
deforestation and soil erosion, loss of biodiversity, impact on water resources, as well as energy balance and

[1] Demirbas, A. (2009). "Political, economic and environmental impacts of biofuels: A review". Applied Energy 86: S108–S117.
[2] "Towards Sustainable Production and Use of Resources: Assessing Biofuels" (http:/ / www. unep. fr/ scp/ rpanel/ pdf/
Assessing_Biofuels_Full_Report. pdf). United Nations Environment Programme. 2009-10-16. . Retrieved 2009-10-24.
[3] "IEA says biofuels can displace 27% of transportation fuels by 2050 Washington" (http:/ / www. platts. com/ RSSFeedDetailedNews/
RSSFeed/ Oil/ 6017103). Platts. 20 April 2011. .
[4] Bio ethanol fires information bio ethanol fireplace (http:/ / www. prestigiousfires. co. uk). (2009)
[5] Andrew Bounds (2007-09-10). "OECD warns against biofuels subsidies" (http:/ / www. ft. com/ cms/ s/ 0/
e780d216-5fd5-11dc-b0fe-0000779fd2ac. html). Financial Times. . Retrieved 2008-03-07.
[6] see "Breaking the Biological Barriers to Cellulosic Ethanol"
[7] Brinkman, N. et al., "Well-to-Wheels Analysis of Advanced/Vehicle Systems", 2005.
[8] Farrell, A.E. et al. (2006) "Ethanol can Contribute to Energy and Environmental Goals", Science, 311, 506-8.
[9] Hammerschlag, R. 2006. "Ethanol's Energy Return on Investment: A Survey of the Literature 1999-Present", Environ. Sci. Technol., 40,
[10] "With only 2/3 the energy of gasoline, ethanol costs more per mile" (http:/ / zfacts. com/ p/ 436. html). 2007-04-27. . Retrieved
[11] "Hydrogen Solar home" (http:/ / www. hydrogensolar. com/ ). . Retrieved 2010-07-14.
[12] "ButylFuel, LLC Main Page" (http:/ / www. butanol. com/ ). 2005-08-15. . Retrieved 2010-07-14.
[13] Evans, Jon (14 January 2008). "Biofuels aim higher" (http:/ / www. biofpr. com/ details/ feature/ 102347/ Biofuels_aim_higher. html).
Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining (BioFPR). . Retrieved 2008-12-03.
[14] "ADM Biodiesel: Hamburg, Leer, Mainz" (http:/ / www. biodiesel. de/ ). . Retrieved 2010-07-14.
[15] RRI Limited for Biodiesel Filling Stations. "Welcome to Biodiesel Filling Stations" (http:/ / www. biodieselfillingstations. co. uk). . Retrieved 2010-07-14.
[16] "Biofuels Facts" (http:/ / www. hempcar. org/ biofacts. shtml). . Retrieved 2010-07-14.
[17] THE FUTURIST (http:/ / www. wfs. org/ futcontja07. htm), Will Thurmond (http:/ / www. prleap. com/ pr/ 80099/ ). July–August 2007
[18] "Customs seize illegal fuel" (http:/ / news. bbc. co. uk/ 2/ hi/ uk_news/ northern_ireland/ 4083017. stm). BBC News. 2004-12-09. .
Retrieved 2010-07-25.
[19] http:/ / www. wolf-pflanzenoel-technik. de/
[20] Evans, G. "Liquid Transport Biofuels - Technology Status Report" (http:/ / www. nnfcc. co. uk/ metadot/ index.
pl?id=6597;isa=DBRow;op=show;dbview_id=2457), National Non-Food Crops Centre, 2008-04-14. Retrieved on 2009-05-11.
[21] "Council Directive 85/536/EEC of 5 December 1985 on crude-oil savings through the use of substitute fuel components in petrol" (http:/ /
eur-lex. europa. eu/ LexUriServ/ LexUriServ. do?uri=CELEX:31985L0536:EN:HTML). . Retrieved 2010-07-14.
[22] "Microsoft Word - IA 55 EN.doc" (http:/ / www. europarl. europa. eu/ registre/ docs_autres_institutions/ commission_europeenne/ sec/
2007/ 0055/ COM_SEC(2007)0055_EN. pdf) (PDF). . Retrieved 2010-07-14.
Biofuel 57

[23] Redman, G., The Andersons Centre. "Assessment of on-farm AD in the UK" (http:/ / www. nnfcc. co. uk/ metadot/ index.
pl?id=7198;isa=DBRow;op=show;dbview_id=2457), National Non-Food Crops Centre, 2008-06-09. Retrieved on 2009-05-11.
[24] "BIOGAS: No bull, manure can power your farm." Farmers Guardian (September 25, 2009): 12. General OneFile. Gale.
[25] Cedric Briens, Jan Piskorz and Franco Berruti, "Biomass Valorization for Fuel and Chemicals Production -- A Review," 2008. International
Journal of Chemical Reactor Engineering, 6, R2
[26] "Threat to Great Apes Highlighted at Virunga Meeting" (http:/ / www. america. gov/ st/ env-english/ 2008/ July/
20080711150646mlenuhret0. 9135401. html). . Retrieved 2010-07-14.
[27] National Non-Food Crops Centre. NNFCC Newsletter - Issue 19. Advanced Biofuels (http:/ / www. nnfcc. co. uk/ publications/
nnfcc-newsletter-issue-19. -advanced-biofuels)
[28] Oliver R. Inderwildi, David A. King (2009). "Quo Vadis Biofuels". Energy & Environmental Science 2 (4): 343. doi:10.1039/b822951c.
[29] Chris Somerville. "Development of Cellulosic Biofuels" (http:/ / web. archive. org/ web/ 20070927005653/ http:/ / www. usda. gov/ oce/
forum/ 2007+ Speeches/ PDF+ PPT/ CSomerville. pdf) (PDF). U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. Archived from the original (http:/ / www. usda. gov/
oce/ forum/ 2007+ Speeches/ PDF+ PPT/ CSomerville. pdf) on 2007-09-27. . Retrieved 2008-01-15.
[30] EurekAlert. (2009). 15 new highly stable fungal enzyme catalysts that efficiently break down cellulose into sugars at high temperatures
(http:/ / www. eurekalert. org/ pub_releases/ 2009-03/ ciot-csc032009. php).
[31] Yeoman CJ, Han Y, Dodd D, Schroeder CM, Mackie RI, Cant IK. (2010) "Thermostable enzymes as biocatalysts in the biofuel industry"
(http:/ / www. ncbi. nlm. nih. gov/ pubmed/ 20359453). .. Advances in Applied Microbiology 70: 1 - 55
[32] "Jack Pronk's elephant yeast" (http:/ / www. tnw. tudelft. nl/ live/ pagina. jsp?id=811b8180-6e76-47bb-8ee6-57f89b0d8b17& lang=en). . Retrieved 2010-07-14.
[33] "Straw to ethanol plant in Sas van Gent" (http:/ / www. tnw. tudelft. nl/ live/ pagina. jsp?id=811b8180-6e76-47bb-8ee6-57f89b0d8b17&
lang=en). . Retrieved 2010-07-14.
[34] "Fill her up please, and make it myco-diesel" (http:/ / afp. google. com/ article/ ALeqM5gz4TxqoKipVTNNcSTylCrzgb0IAg). AFP. .
Retrieved 2008-11-04.
[35] *Fisher, Lawrence M. April 24th 2007. "Carbon gas is explored as a source of ethanol" New York Times.
[36] *Voegele, E. August 27th 2009. "LanzaTech develops waste gas to ethanol technology", Ethanol Producer Magazine
[37] Matthew Aylott (2010-09-24). "Forget palm oil and soya, microalgae is the next big biofuel source" (http:/ / www. theecologist. org/
blogs_and_comments/ commentators/ other_comments/ 609556/ forget_palm_oil_and_soya_microalgae_is_the_next_big_biofuel_source.
html). The Ecologist. . Retrieved 2011-02-22.
[38] Eviana Hartman (2008-01-06). "A Promising Oil Alternative: Algae Energy" (http:/ / www. washingtonpost. com/ wp-dyn/ content/ article/
2008/ 01/ 03/ AR2008010303907. html). Washington Post. . Retrieved 2008-01-15.
[39] astutech ltd / wordserver 2.0. "Globeco biodegradable bio-diesel" (http:/ / www. globeco. co. uk/ Bio-diesel_news_0007. html). . Retrieved 2010-07-14.
[40] "Friends of biodegradable ethanol" (http:/ / www. friendsofethanol. com/ facts. html). . Retrieved 2010-07-14.
[41] Low Cost Algae Production System Introduced (http:/ / web. archive. org/ web/ 20071011212956/ http:/ / energy-arizona. org/ archive/
200708280001_low_cost_algae_production_system_introduced. php)
[42] "New algal extraction techniques using helix bioreactor." Industrial Bioprocessing (April 3, 2009): NA. General OneFile. Gale.
[43] "Nanofarming technology harvest biofuel oils without harming algae" (http:/ / www. physorg. com/ news158333205. html).
2009-04-07. . Retrieved 2010-07-14.
[44] (http:/ / algaloildiesel. wetpaint. com/ page/ PROPAGATION+ OF+ ALGAE+ BY+ USE+ OF+ COVERED+ PONDS),
[45] "Prospects For The Biodiesel Industry - Algaloildiesel, Llp" (http:/ / algaloildiesel. wetpaint. com/ page/ PROSPECTS+ FOR+ THE+
BIODIESEL+ INDUSTRY). . Retrieved 2010-07-14.
[46] "Seaweed Biofuels: Production of Biogas and Bioethanol from Brown Macroalgae". ASIN 3639153073.
[47] University of Oklahoma (2009, January 14) 'Green' Gasoline On The Horizon. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 9, 2010, from http:/ / www.
sciencedaily. com­/ releases/ 2009/ 01/ 090113155902. htm
[48] http:/ / www. gtmresearch. com/ report/ third-and-fourth-generation-biofuels
[49] "" (http:/ / www. greenfuelonline. com/ ). . Retrieved 2010-07-14.
[50] Kalita, D (2008). "Hydrocarbon plant—New source of energy for future". Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 12 (2): 455–471.
doi:10.1016/j.rser.2006.07.008. ISSN 13640321.
[51] K. G. Ramawat (2010). Desert Plants: Biology and Biotechnology (http:/ / books. google. com/ books?id=UNaNWN4zkqQC& pg=PA37).
Springer. pp. 37–. ISBN 9783642025495. . Retrieved 23 August 2010.
[52] "IEA bioenergy" (http:/ / www. ieabioenergy. com/ IEABioenergy. aspx). IEA bioenergy. . Retrieved 2010-07-14.
[53] "Press Conference Launching International Biofuels Forum" (http:/ / www. un. org/ News/ briefings/ docs/ 2007/ 070302_Biofuels. doc.
htm). United Nations Department of Public Information. 2007-03-02. . Retrieved 2008-01-15.
[54] Greenpeace - The Russian Forests (http:/ / archive. greenpeace. org/ comms/ cbio/ russia. html)
[55] Moscow Times - World's Largest Pellet Plant to Start by Year-End (http:/ / www. themoscowtimes. com/ business/ article/
worlds-largest-pellet-plant-to-start-by-year-end/ 421905. html)
Biofuel 58

Further reading
• Caye Drapcho, Nhuan Phú Nghiêm, Terry Walker (August 2008). Biofuels Engineering Process Technology
( [McGraw-Hill]. ISBN 9780071487498.
• IChemE Energy Conversion Technology Subject Group (May 2009). A Biofuels Compendium (http://www. [IChemE]. ISBN 9780852955338.
• Fuel Quality Directive Impact Assessment (
• Biofuels Journal (
• James Smith (November 2010). Biofuels and the Globalisation of Risk (
asp?bookdetail=4363). [Zed Books]. ISBN 9781848135727.
• Mitchell, Donald (2010) (Available in PDF). Biofuels in Africa: Opportunities, Prospects, and Challenges (http:// The World Bank, Washington, D.C.. ISBN 978-0821385166.

External links
• Investing in Alternative ( - Biofuel
• Alternative Fueling Station Locator ( (EERE).
• Towards Sustainable Production and Use of Resources: Assessing Biofuels (
pdf/Assessing_Biofuels_Full_Report.pdf) by the United Nations Environment Programme, October 2009.
• Biofuels guidance for businesses, including permits and licences required (
94953.aspx) on
• How Much Water Does It Take to Make Electricity? ( -- Natural
gas requires the least water to produce energy, some biofuels the most, according to a new study.
• International Conference on Biofuels Standards ( -
European Union Biofuels Standardization
• International Energy Agency: Biofuels for Transport - An International Perspective (
• Biofuels from Biomass: Technology and Policy Considerations (
short-programs/courses/biofuels_biomass.html) Thorough overview from MIT
• The Guardian news on biofuels (
• The U.S. DOE Clean Cities Program ( - links to all of the Clean
Cities coalitions that exist throughout the U.S. (there are 87 of them)
Earth's energy budget 59

Earth's energy budget

The Earth can be considered as a physical system with
an energy budget that includes all gains of incoming
energy and all losses of outgoing energy. The planet is
approximately in equilibrium, so the sum of the gains is
approximately equal to the sum of the losses.
Note on accompanying images: These graphics depict
only net energy transfer. There is no attempt to depict
the role of greenhouse gases and the exchange that
occurs between the Earth's surface and the atmosphere
or any other exchanges.

The energy budget

A schematic representation of the energy exchanges between the
Incoming energy Earth's surface, the Earth's atmosphere, and outer space. Note that the
total energy entering each level is equal to the energy leaving that
The total solar flux of energy entering the Earth's level as should be expected for a system in balance.
atmosphere is estimated at 174 petawatts. This flux
consists of:
• solar radiation (99.97%, or nearly 173 petawatts; or
about 340 W m−2)
• This is equal to the product of the solar constant,
about 1,366 watts per square metre, and the area
of the Earth's disc as seen from the Sun, about
1.28 × 1014 square metres, averaged over the
Earth's surface, which is four times larger. The
solar flux averaged over just the sunlit half of the
Earth's surface is about 680 W m−2
• This is the incident energy. The energy actually
absorbed by the earth is lower by a factor of the
co-albedo; this is discussed in the next section. This image is from a NASA site explaining the effects of clouds on
the Earth's Energy Budget
• Note that the solar constant varies (by
approximately 0.1% over a solar cycle); and is
not known absolutely to within better than about one watt per square metre. Hence the geothermal, tidal, and
waste heat contributions are less than the uncertainty in the solar power.
• geothermal energy (0.025%; or about 44[2] to 47[3] terawatts; or about 0.08 W m−2)
• This is produced by stored heat and heat produced by radioactive decay leaking out of the Earth's interior.
• tidal energy (0.002%, or about 3 terawatts; or about 0.0059 W m−2)
Earth's energy budget 60

• This is produced by the interaction of the Earth's

mass with the gravitational fields of other bodies
such as the Moon and Sun.
• waste heat from fossil fuel consumption (about
0.007%, or about 13 terawatts; or about 0.025 W
m−2)[4] The total energy used by commercial energy
sources from 1880 to 2000 (including fossil fuels
and nuclear) is calculated to be 17.3x1021Joules.[5]
There are other minor sources of energy that are usually
ignored in these calculations: accretion of
interplanetary dust and solar wind, light from distant
stars, the thermal radiation of space. Although these are Solar energy as it is dispersed on the planet and radiated back to
now known to be negligibly small, this was not always space. Values are in PW =1015 watt.

obvious: Joseph Fourier initially thought radiation from

deep space was significant when he discussed the Earth's energy budget in a paper often cited as the first on the
greenhouse effect.[6]

Outgoing energy
The average albedo (reflectivity) of the Earth is about 0.3, which means that 30% of the incident solar energy is
reflected into space, while 70% is absorbed by the Earth and reradiated as infrared. The planet's albedo varies from
month to month and place to place, but 0.3 is the average figure. The contributions from geothermal and tidal power
sources are so small that they are omitted from the following calculations.
30% of the incident energy is reflected, consisting of:
• 6% reflected from the atmosphere
• 20% reflected from clouds
• 4% reflected from the ground (including land, water and ice)
The remaining 70% of the incident energy is
• 51% is absorbed by land and water, and
then emerges in the following ways:
• 23% is transferred back into the
atmosphere as latent heat by the
evaporation of water, called latent
heat flux
• 7% is transferred back into the
atmosphere by heated rising air, called
Sensible heat flux
• 6% is radiated directly into space
• 15% is transferred into the atmosphere
by radiation, then reradiated into Earth's longwave thermal radiation intensity, from clouds, atmosphere and ground
• 19% is absorbed by the atmosphere and clouds, including:
• 16% reradiated into space
• 3% transferred to clouds, from where it is radiated back into space
When the Earth is at thermal equilibrium, the same 70% that is absorbed is reradiated:
Earth's energy budget 61

• 64% by the clouds and atmosphere

• 6% by the ground

[1] Data to produce this graphic was taken from a NASA publication.
[2] Pollack, H.N.; S. J. Hurter, and J. R. Johnson (1993). "Heat Flow from the Earth's Interior: Analysis of the Global Data Set" (http:/ / www.
agu. org/ pubs/ crossref/ 1993/ 93RG01249. shtml). Rev. Geophys. 30 (3): pp. 267–280.
[3] J. H. Davies and D. R. Davies, "Earth’s Surface heat flux," Solid Earth, 1, 5–24 (2010), available in pdf form (http:/ / www. solid-earth. net/
1/ 5/ 2010/ se-1-5-2010. pdf) here (accessed 8 October 2010)
[4] (http:/ / mustelid. blogspot. com/ 2005/ 04/ global-warming-is-not-from-waste-heat. html)
[5] Nordell, Bo; Bruno Gervet. Global energy accumulation and net heat emission (http:/ / www. ltu. se/ polopoly_fs/ 1. 5035!nordell-gervet
ijgw. pdf). . Retrieved 2009-12-23.
[6] Connolley, William M. (18 May 2003). "William M. Connolley's page about Fourier 1827: MEMOIRE sur les temperatures du globe terrestre
et des espaces planetaires" (http:/ / www. wmconnolley. org. uk/ sci/ fourier_1827/ ). William M. Connolley. . Retrieved 5 July 2010.

• "Earth's Energy Budget", Oklahoma Climatological Survey (

• "Earth's Energy Budget" graphic, NASA (
• "Understanding the Heat Budget", (

Earth's radiation balance

Earth's radiation balance is the equation of the incoming and outgoing thermal radiation.
The incoming solar radiation is short wave, therefore
the equation below is called the short wave radiation
balance Qs:
Qs = G - R = D + H - R or depending on
the albedo (back-reflection to space): = G
(1 - a)
• G = global radiation
• D = direct radiation
• H = diffuse radiation
• R = reflected portion of global radiation (ca. 4%)
• a = albedo
An instrument for measuring the net radiation balance and albedo.
The Earth's surface and atmosphere emits heat radiation Model shown CNR 1. Courtesy of Kipp & Zonen
in the infrared spectrum, called long wave radiation.
There is little overlap between the long wave radiation spectrum and the solar radiation spectrum. The equation
below expresses the long wave radiation balance Ql:
Ql = AE = AO - AG
• AE = effective radiation
• AO = radiation of the Earth's surface
• AG = trapped radiation (radiation forcing, also known as the so called greenhouse effect)
The two equations on incoming and outgoing radiation can be combined to show the net total amount of radiation
energy, total radiation balance Qt:
Qt = Qs - Ql = G - R - AE
Earth's radiation balance 62

The difficulty is to precisely quantify the various internal and external factors influencing the radiation balance.
Internal factors include all mechanisms affecting atmospheric composition (volcanism, biological activity, land use
change, human activities etc.). The main external factor is solar radiation. The sun's average luminosity changes little
over time.
External and internal factors are also closely interconnected. Increased solar radiation for example results in higher
average temperatures and higher water vapour content of the atmosphere. Water vapour, a heat trapping gas
absorbing infrared radiation emitted by the Earth's surface, can lead to either higher temperatures through radiation
forces or lower temperatures as a result of increased cloud formation and hence increased albedo.

Fossil fuel
Fossil fuels are fuels formed by natural processes such as anaerobic
decomposition of buried dead organisms. The age of the organisms and
their resulting fossil fuels is typically millions of years, and sometimes
exceeds 650 million years.[1] The fossil fuels, which contain high
percentages of carbon, include coal, petroleum, and natural gas. Fossil
fuels range from volatile materials with low carbon:hydrogen ratios
like methane, to liquid petroleum to nonvolatile materials composed of
almost pure carbon, like anthracite coal. Methane can be found in
hydrocarbon fields, alone, associated with oil, or in the form of
methane clathrates. It is generally accepted that they formed from the
fossilized remains of dead plants and animals[2] by exposure to heat
and pressure in the Earth's crust over millions of years.[3] This biogenic
Coal, one of the fossil fuels.
theory was first introduced by Georg Agricola in 1556 and later by
Mikhail Lomonosov in the 18th century.

It was estimated by the Energy Information Administration that in 2007 primary sources of energy consisted of
petroleum 36.0%, coal 27.4%, natural gas 23.0%, amounting to an 86.4% share for fossil fuels in primary energy
consumption in the world.[4] Non-fossil sources in 2006 included hydroelectric 6.3%, nuclear 8.5%, and others
(geothermal, solar, tide, wind, wood, waste) amounting to 0.9 percent.[5] World energy consumption was growing
about 2.3% per year.
Fossil fuels are non-renewable resources because they take millions of years to form, and reserves are being depleted
much faster than new ones are being made. The production and use of fossil fuels raise environmental concerns. A
global movement toward the generation of renewable energy is therefore under way to help meet increased energy
The burning of fossil fuels produces around 21.3 billion tonnes (21.3 gigatonnes) of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year,
but it is estimated that natural processes can only absorb about half of that amount, so there is a net increase of 10.65
billion tonnes of atmospheric carbon dioxide per year (one tonne of atmospheric carbon is equivalent to 44/12 or 3.7
tonnes of carbon dioxide).[6] Carbon dioxide is one of the greenhouse gases that enhances radiative forcing and
contributes to global warming, causing the average surface temperature of the Earth to rise in response, which most
climate scientists agree will cause major adverse effects.
Fossil fuel 63

Petroleum and natural gas are formed by the anaerobic decomposition of remains of organisms including
phytoplankton and zooplankton that settled to the sea (or lake) bottom in large quantities under anoxic conditions,
millions of years ago. Over geological time, this organic matter, mixed with mud, got buried under heavy layers of
sediment. The resulting high levels of heat and pressure caused the organic matter to chemically alter, first into a
waxy material known as kerogen which is found in oil shales, and then with more heat into liquid and gaseous
hydrocarbons in a process known as catagenesis.
There is a wide range of renewable, or hydrocarbon, compounds in any given fuel mixture. The specific mixture of
hydrocarbons gives a fuel its characteristic properties, such as boiling point, melting point, density, viscosity, etc.
Some fuels like natural gas, for instance, contain only very low boiling, gaseous components. Others such as
gasoline or diesel contain much higher boiling components.
Terrestrial plants, on the other hand, tend to form coal and methane. Many of the coal fields date to the
Carboniferous period of Earth's history. Terrestrial plants also form type III kerogen, a source of natural gas.

Fossil fuels are of great importance because they can be burned
(oxidized to carbon dioxide and water), producing significant amounts
of energy per unit weight. The use of coal as a fuel predates recorded
history. Coal was used to run furnaces for the melting of metal ore.
Semi-solid hydrocarbons from seeps were also burned in ancient
times,[7] but these materials were mostly used for waterproofing and

Commercial exploitation of petroleum, largely as a replacement for

oils from animal sources (notably whale oil), for use in oil lamps began
in the 19th century.[9]
Natural gas, once flared-off as an unneeded byproduct of petroleum
production, is now considered a very valuable resource.[10]
Heavy crude oil, which is much more viscous than conventional crude
oil, and tar sands, where bitumen is found mixed with sand and clay,
are becoming more important as sources of fossil fuel.[11] Oil shale and An oil well in the Gulf of Mexico
similar materials are sedimentary rocks containing kerogen, a complex
mixture of high-molecular weight organic compounds, which yield synthetic crude oil when heated (pyrolyzed).
These materials have yet to be exploited commercially.[12] These fuels can be employed in internal combustion
engines, fossil fuel power stations and other uses.

Prior to the latter half of the 18th century, windmills and watermills provided the energy needed for industry such as
milling flour, sawing wood or pumping water, and burning wood or peat provided domestic heat. The widescale use
of fossil fuels, coal at first and petroleum later, to fire steam engines enabled the Industrial Revolution. At the same
time, gas lights using natural gas or coal gas were coming into wide use. The invention of the internal combustion
engine and its use in
Fossil fuel 64

automobiles and trucks greatly increased the demand for gasoline and
diesel oil, both made from fossil fuels. Other forms of transportation,
railways and aircraft, also required fossil fuels. The other major use for
fossil fuels is in generating electricity and as feedstock for the
petrochemical industry. Tar, a leftover of petroleum extraction, is used
in construction of roads.

Levels and flows

Levels of primary energy sources are the reserves in the ground. Flows
are production. The most important part of primary energy sources are
the carbon based fossil energy sources. Coal, oil, and natural gas
provided 79.6% of primary energy production during 2002 (in million
tonnes of oil equivalent (mtoe)) (34.9+23.5+21.2).

A petrochemical refinery in Grangemouth,

Scotland, UK

Levels (proved reserves) during 2005-2007

• Coal: 997,748 million short tonnes (905 billion metric tonnes),[13] 4416 billion barrels (702.1 km3) of oil
• Oil: 1119 billion barrels (177.9 km3) to 1317 billion barrels (209.4 km3)[14]
• Natural gas: 6,183-6,381 trillion cubic feet (175-181 trillion cubic metres),[14] 1161 billion barrels
(184.6×109 m3) of oil equivalent
Flows (daily production) during 2006
• Coal: 18,476,127 short tonnes (16,761,260 metric tonnes),[15] 52000000 barrels ( m3) of oil equivalent per day
• Oil: 84000000 barrels per day ( m3/d)[16]
• Natural gas: 104,435 billion cubic feet (2,960 billion cubic metres),[17] 19000000 barrels ( m3) of oil equivalent
per day
Years of production left in the ground with the current proved reserves and flows above
• Coal: 148 years
• Oil: 43 years
• Natural gas: 61 years
Years of production left in the ground with the most optimistic proved reserve estimates (Oil & Gas Journal, World
• Coal: 417 years
• Oil: 43 years
• Natural gas: 167 years
The calculation above assumes that the product could be produced at a constant level for that number of years and
that all of the proved reserves could be recovered. In reality, consumption of all three resources has been increasing.
While this suggests that the resource will be used up more quickly, in reality, the production curve is much more
akin to a bell curve. At some point in time, the production of each resource within an area, country, or globally will
reach a maximum value, after which, the production will decline until it reaches a point where is no longer
economically feasible or physically possible to produce. See Hubbert peak theory for detail on this decline curve
with regard to petroleum. Note also that proved reserve estimates do not include strategic reserves, which (globally)
Fossil fuel 65

amount to 4.1 billion more barrels.

The above discussion emphasizes worldwide energy balance. It is also valuable to understand the ratio of reserves to
annual consumption (R/C) by region or country. For example, energy policy of the United Kingdom recognizes that
Europe's R/C value is 3.0, very low by world standards, and exposes that region to energy vulnerability. Alternatives
to fossil fuels are a subject of intense debate worldwide.

Limits and alternatives

The principle of supply and demand suggests that as hydrocarbon supplies diminish, prices will rise. Therefore
higher prices will lead to increased alternative, renewable energy supplies as previously uneconomic sources become
sufficiently economical to exploit. Artificial gasolines and other renewable energy sources currently require more
expensive production and processing technologies than conventional petroleum reserves, but may become
economically viable in the near future. See Energy development. Different alternative sources of energy include
nuclear, hydroelectric, solar, wind, and geothermal.

Environmental effects
In the United States, more than 90% of
greenhouse gas emissions come from
the combustion of fossil fuels.[18]
Combustion of fossil fuels also
produces other air pollutants, such as
nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, volatile
organic compounds and heavy metals.

According to Environment Canada:

"The electricity sector is
unique among industrial
sectors in its very large
contribution to emissions
associated with nearly all
air issues. Electricity
generation produces a
Global fossil carbon emission by fuel type, 1800-2007. Note: Carbon only represents 27%
large share of Canadian of the mass of CO2
nitrogen oxides and
sulphur dioxide emissions, which contribute to smog and acid rain and the formation of fine particulate
matter. It is the largest uncontrolled industrial source of mercury emissions in Canada. Fossil fuel-fired
electric power plants also emit carbon dioxide, which may contribute to climate change. In addition, the
sector has significant impacts on water and habitat and species. In particular, hydro dams and
transmission lines have significant effects on water and biodiversity."[19]
Fossil fuel 66

According to U.S. Scientist Jerry

Mahlman and USA Today: Mahlman,
who crafted the IPCC language used to
define levels of scientific certainty,
says the new report will lay the blame
at the feet of fossil fuels with "virtual
certainty," meaning 99% sure. That's a
significant jump from "likely," or 66%
sure, in the group's last report in 2001,
Mahlman says. His role in this year's
effort involved spending two months
reviewing the more than 1,600 pages
of research that went into the new

Combustion of fossil fuels generates Carbon dioxide variations over the last 400,000 years, showing a rise since the industrial
sulfuric, carbonic, and nitric acids, revolution.

which fall to Earth as acid rain,

impacting both natural areas and the built environment. Monuments and sculptures made from marble and limestone
are particularly vulnerable, as the acids dissolve calcium carbonate.
Fossil fuels also contain radioactive materials, mainly uranium and thorium, which are released into the atmosphere.
In 2000, about 12,000 tonnes of thorium and 5,000 tonnes of uranium were released worldwide from burning
coal.[21] It is estimated that during 1982, US coal burning released 155 times as much radioactivity into the
atmosphere as the Three Mile Island incident.[22] However, this radioactivity from coal burning is minuscule at each
source and has not shown to have any adverse effect on human physiology.
Burning coal also generates large amounts of bottom ash and fly ash. These materials are used in a wide variety of
applications, utilizing, for example, about 40% of the US production.[23]
Harvesting, processing, and distributing fossil fuels can also create environmental concerns. Coal mining methods,
particularly mountaintop removal and strip mining, have negative environmental impacts, and offshore oil drilling
poses a hazard to aquatic organisms. Oil refineries also have negative environmental impacts, including air and water
pollution. Transportation of coal requires the use of diesel-powered locomotives, while crude oil is typically
transported by tanker ships, each of which requires the combustion of additional fossil fuels.
Environmental regulation uses a variety of approaches to limit these emissions, such as command-and-control
(which mandates the amount of pollution or the technology used), economic incentives, or voluntary programs.
An example of such regulation in the USA is the "EPA is implementing policies to reduce airborne mercury
emissions. Under regulations issued in 2005, coal-fired power plants will need to reduce their emissions by 70
percent by 2018.".[24]
In economic terms, pollution from fossil fuels is regarded as a negative externality. Taxation is considered one way
to make societal costs explicit, in order to 'internalize' the cost of pollution. This aims to make fossil fuels more
expensive, thereby reducing their use and the amount of pollution associated with them, along with raising the funds
necessary to counteract these factors.
Former CIA Director James Woolsey recently outlined the national security arguments in favor of moving away
from fossil fuels.[25]
Fossil fuel 67

[1] Paul Mann, Lisa Gahagan, and Mark B. Gordon, "Tectonic setting of the world's giant oil and gas fields," in Michel T. Halbouty (ed.) Giant
Oil and Gas Fields of the Decade, 1990-1999 (http:/ / books. google. com/ books?id=mrghwzjeU-AC& pg=PA50& lpg=PA50&
dq="precambrian+ oil"+ halbouty& source=bl& ots=xGS8yx9cUn& sig=kAQvoCdognlM-k0bDI2ZLCj5ri4& hl=en&
ei=bo8_SoSNJZPCsQPYgvS6Dw& sa=X& oi=book_result& ct=result& resnum=1), Tulsa, Okla.: American Association of Petroleum
Geologists, p.50, accessed 22 June 2009.
[2] Dr. Irene Novaczek. "Canada's Fossil Fuel Dependency" (http:/ / www. elements. nb. ca/ theme/ fuels/ irene/ novaczek. htm). Elements. .
Retrieved 2007-01-18.
[3] "Fossil fuel" (http:/ / web. archive. org/ web/ 20070312054557/ http:/ / oaspub. epa. gov/ trs/ trs_proc_qry. navigate_term?p_term_id=7068&
p_term_cd=TERM). EPA. Archived from the original (http:/ / oaspub. epa. gov/ trs/ trs_proc_qry. navigate_term?p_term_id=7068&
p_term_cd=TERM) on March 12, 2007. . Retrieved 2007-01-18.
[4] "U.S. EIA International Energy Statistics" (http:/ / tonto. eia. doe. gov/ cfapps/ ipdbproject/ IEDIndex3. cfm). . Retrieved 2010-01-12.
[5] "International Energy Annual 2006" (http:/ / www. eia. doe. gov/ iea/ overview. html). . Retrieved 2009-02-08.
[6] "US Department of Energy on greenhouse gases" (http:/ / www. eia. doe. gov/ oiaf/ 1605/ ggccebro/ chapter1. html). . Retrieved 2007-09-09.
[7] "Encyclopedia Britannica, use of oil seeps in accient times" (http:/ / www. britannica. com/ ebc/ article-50695). . Retrieved 2007-09-09.
[8] Bilkadi, Zayn (1994). "BULLS FROM THE SEA : Ancient Oil Industries". Aramco World. Archived (http:/ / web. archive. org/
20071113215013/ http:/ / web. archive. org/ web/ 20071113215013/ http:/ / www. gr8dubai. com/ oil2. htm) November 13, 2007 at the
Wayback Machine.
[9] Ball, Max W.; Douglas Ball, Daniel S. Turner (1965). This Fascinating Oil Business. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill. ISBN 0-672-50829-X.
[10] Kaldany,, Rashad, Director Oil, Gas, Mining and Chemicals Dept, World Bank (December 13, 2006). "Global Gas Flaring Reduction: A
Time for Action!" (http:/ / www. worldbank. org/ html/ fpd/ ggfrforum06/ kadany. pdf) (PDF). Global Forum on Flaring & Gas Utilization.
Paris. . Retrieved 2007-09-09.
[11] "Oil Sands Global Market Potential 2007" (http:/ / www. prlog. org/ 10026386-oil-sands-global-market-potential-2007. html). . Retrieved
[12] "US Department of Energy plans for oil shale development" (http:/ / web. archive. org/ web/ 20070813012953/ http:/ / www. fossil. energy.
gov/ programs/ reserves/ npr/ NPR_Oil_Shale_Program. html). Archived from the original (http:/ / www. fossil. energy. gov/ programs/
reserves/ npr/ NPR_Oil_Shale_Program. html) on August 13, 2007. . Retrieved 2007-09-09.
[13] World Estimated Recoverable Coal (http:/ / www. eia. doe. gov/ pub/ international/ iea2005/ table82. xls)
[14] World Proved Reserves of Oil and Natural Gas, Most Recent Estimates (http:/ / www. eia. doe. gov/ emeu/ international/ reserves. xls)
[15] http:/ / www. eia. doe. gov/ pub/ international/ iealf/ table14. xls
[16] http:/ / www. eia. doe. gov/ emeu/ international/ RecentPetroleumConsumptionBarrelsperDay. xls
[17] http:/ / www. eia. doe. gov/ pub/ international/ iealf/ table13. xls
[18] US EPA.2000. Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-1998, Rep. EPA 236-R-00-01. US EPA, Washington, DC,
http:/ / www. epa. gov/ globalwarming
[19] "Electricity Generation" (http:/ / www. ec. gc. ca/ cleanair-airpur/ Electricity-WSDC4D330A-1_En. htm). . Retrieved 2007-03-23.
[20] O'Driscoll, Patrick; Vergano, Dan (2007-03-01). "Fossil fuels are to blame, world scientists conclude" (http:/ / www. usatoday. com/ tech/
science/ 2007-01-30-ipcc-report_x. htm). USA Today. . Retrieved 2010-05-02.
[21] Coal Combustion: Nuclear Resource or Danger (http:/ / www. ornl. gov/ info/ ornlreview/ rev26-34/ text/ colmain. html) - Alex Gabbard
[22] Nuclear proliferation through coal burning (http:/ / www. physics. ohio-state. edu/ ~aubrecht/ coalvsnucMarcon. pdf#page=8) - Gordon J.
Aubrecht, II, Ohio State University
[23] American Coal Ash Association. "CCP Production and Use Survey" (http:/ / www. acaa-usa. org/ PDF/
2005_CCP_Production_and_Use_Figures_Released_by_ACAA. pdf) (PDF). .
[24] "Frequently Asked Questions, Information on Proper Disposal of Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs)" (http:/ / www. energystar. gov/
ia/ partners/ promotions/ change_light/ downloads/ Fact_Sheet_Mercury. pdf) (PDF). . Retrieved 2007-03-19.
[25] Video of Woolsey speech (http:/ / www. law. uh. edu/ eelpj/ symposium. html)
Fossil fuel 68

External links
• "The Coming Energy Crisis?" ( - essay by James L. Williams
of WTRG Economics and A. F. Alhajji of Ohio Northern University
• "Powering the Future" ( - Michael
Parfit (National Geographic)
• "Federal Fossil Fuel Subsidies and Greenhouse Gas Emissions" (
• Fossil Fuel Subsidies in Europe (
• Oil companies hit by 'state' cyber attacks (
• The Origin of Methane (and Oil) in the Crust of the Earth ( Gold (Internet Archives)

Global dimming
Global dimming is the gradual reduction in the amount of global direct irradiance at the Earth's surface that was
observed for several decades after the start of systematic measurements in the 1950s. The effect varies by location,
but worldwide it has been estimated to be of the order of a 4% reduction over the three decades from 1960–1990.
However, after discounting an anomaly caused by the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991, a very slight reversal in
the overall trend has been observed.[1]
It is thought to have been caused by an increase in particulates such as sulfate aerosols in the atmosphere due to
human action.
Global dimming has interfered with the hydrological cycle by reducing evaporation and may have reduced rainfall in
some areas. Global dimming also creates a cooling effect that may have partially masked the effect of greenhouse
gases on global warming.
Deliberate manipulation of this dimming effect is now being considered as a geoengineering technique to reduce the
impact of global warming.

Causes and effects

It is thought that global dimming is probably due to the increased presence of aerosol particles in the atmosphere
caused by human action.[2] Aerosols and other particulates absorb solar energy and reflect sunlight back into space.
The pollutants can also become nuclei for cloud droplets. Water droplets in clouds coalesce around the particles.[3]
Increased pollution causes more particulates and thereby creates clouds consisting of a greater number of smaller
droplets (that is, the same amount of water is spread over more droplets). The smaller droplets make clouds more
reflective, so that more incoming sunlight is reflected back into space and less reaches the Earth's surface. In models,
these smaller droplets also decrease rainfall.[4]
Clouds intercept both heat from the sun and heat radiated from the Earth. Their effects are complex and vary in time,
location, and altitude. Usually during the daytime the interception of sunlight predominates, giving a cooling effect;
however, at night the re-radiation of heat to the Earth slows the Earth's heat loss.
Global dimming 69

In the late-1960s, Mikhail Ivanovich Budyko worked with simple
two-dimensional energy-balance climate models to investigate the
reflectivity of ice.[5] He found that the ice-albedo feedback created a
positive feedback loop in the Earth's climate system. The more snow
and ice, the more solar radiation is reflected back into space and hence
the colder Earth grows and the more it snows. Other studies found that
pollution or a volcano eruption could provoke the onset of an ice
age.[6] [7]

In the mid-1980s, Atsumu Ohmura, a geography researcher at the

Eastern China. Dozens of fires burning on the
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, found that solar radiation
surface (red dots) and a thick pall of smoke and
striking the Earth's surface had declined by more than 10% over the
haze (greyish pixels) filling the skies overhead.
Photo taken by MODIS aboard NASA's Aqua three previous decades. His findings appeared to contradict global
warming—the global temperature had been generally rising since the
70s. Less light reaching the earth seemed to mean that it should cool.
Ohmura published his findings "Secular variation of global radiation in Europe" in 1989.[8] This was soon followed
by others: Viivi Russak in 1990 "Trends of solar radiation, cloudiness and atmospheric transparency during recent
decades in Estonia",[9] and Beate Liepert in 1994 "Solar radiation in Germany — Observed trends and an assessment
of their causes".[10] Dimming has also been observed in sites all over the former Soviet Union.[11] Gerry Stanhill
who studied these declines worldwide in many papers (see references) coined the term "global dimming".[12]

Independent research in Israel and the Netherlands in the late 1980s showed an apparent reduction in the amount of
sunlight,[13] despite widespread evidence that the climate was actually becoming hotter. The rate of dimming varies
around the world but is on average estimated at around 2–3% per decade. The trend reversed in the early 1990s. [1] It
is difficult to make a precise measurement, due to the difficulty in accurately calibrating the instruments used, and
the problem of spatial coverage. Nonetheless, the effect is almost certainly present.
The effect (2–3%, as above) is due to changes within the Earth's atmosphere; the value of the solar radiation at the
top of the atmosphere has not changed by more than a fraction of this amount.[14]
The effect varies greatly over the planet, but
estimates of the terrestrial surface average
value are:
• 5.3% (9 W/m²); over 1958–85 (Stanhill
and Moreshet, 1992)[12]
• 2%/decade over 1964–93 (Gilgen et al., Smog at the Golden Gate Bridge. Smog is a likely contributor to global dimming.
• 2.7%/decade (total 20 W/m²); up to 2000 (Stanhill and Cohen, 2001)[16]
• 4% over 1961–90 (Liepert 2002)[17]
Note that these numbers are for the terrestrial surface and not really a global average. Whether dimming (or
brightening) occurred over the ocean has been a bit of an unknown though a specific measurement (see below,
Causes) measured effects some 400 miles (643.7 km) from India over the Indian Ocean towards the Maldives
Islands. Regional effects probably dominate but are not strictly confined to the land area, and the effects will be
driven by regional air circulation. A 2009 review by Wild et al.[18] found that widespread variation in regional and
time effects. There was solar brightening beyond 2000 at numerous stations in Europe, the United States, and Korea.
The brightening seen at sites in Antarctica during the 1990s, influenced by recovering from the Mount Pinatubo
Global dimming 70

volcanic eruption in 1991, fades after 2000. The brightening tendency also seems to level off at sites in Japan. In
China there is some indication for a renewed dimming, after the stabilization in the 1990s. A continuation of the
long-lasting dimming is also noted at the sites in India. Overall, the available data suggest continuation of the
brightening beyond the year 2000 at numerous locations, yet less pronounced and coherent than during the 1990s,
with more regions with no clear changes or declines. Therefore, globally, greenhouse warming after 2000 may be
less modulated by surface solar variations than in prior decades. The largest reductions are found in the northern
hemisphere mid-latitudes.[19] Visible light and infrared radiation seem to be most affected rather than the ultraviolet
part of the spectrum.[20]

Pan evaporation data

Over the last 50 or so years, pan evaporation has been carefully monitored. For decades, nobody took much notice of
the pan evaporation measurements. But in the 1990s in Europe, Israel, and North America, scientists spotted
something that at the time was considered very strange: the rate of evaporation was falling although they had
expected it to increase due to global warming.[21] The same trend has been observed in China over a similar period.
A decrease in solar irradiance is cited as the driving force. However, unlike in other areas of the world, in China the
decrease in solar irradiance was not always accompanied by an increase in cloud cover and precipitation. It is
believed that aerosols may play a critical role in the decrease of solar irradiance in China.[22]
BBC Horizon producer David Sington believes that many climate scientists regard the pan-evaporation data as the
most convincing evidence of solar dimming.[23] Pan evaporation experiments are easy to reproduce with low-cost
equipment, there are many pans used for agriculture all over the world and in many instances the data has been
collected for nearly a half century. However, pan evaporation depends on some additional factors besides net
radiation from the sun. The other two major factors are vapor pressure deficit and wind speed.[24] The ambient
temperature turns out to be a negligible factor. The pan evaporation data corroborates the data gathered by
radiometer[16] [21] and fills in the gaps in the data obtained using pyranometers. With adjustments to these factors,
pan evaporation data has been compared to results of climate simulations.[25]

Probable causes
The incomplete combustion of fossil fuels (such as diesel) and wood
releases black carbon into the air. Though black carbon, most of which
is soot, is an extremely small component of air pollution at land surface
levels, the phenomenon has a significant heating effect on the
atmosphere at altitudes above two kilometers (6,562 ft). Also, it dims
the surface of the ocean by absorbing solar radiation.[27]

Experiments in the Maldives (comparing the atmosphere over the

northern and southern islands) in the 1990s showed that the effect of
macroscopic pollutants in the atmosphere at that time (blown south NASA photograph showing aircraft contrails and
from India) caused about a 10% reduction in sunlight reaching the natural clouds. The temporary disappearance of
surface in the area under the pollution cloud — a much greater contrails over North America due to plane
groundings after the September 11, 2001 attacks,
reduction than expected from the presence of the particles
and the resulting increase in diurnal temperature
themselves.[28] Prior to the research being undertaken, predictions range gave empirical evidence of the effect of
were of a 0.5–1% effect from particulate matter; the variation from [26]
thin ice clouds at the Earth's surface.
prediction may be explained by cloud formation with the particles
acting as the focus for droplet creation. Clouds are very effective at reflecting light back out into space.

The phenomenon underlying global dimming may also have regional effects. While most of the earth has warmed,
the regions that are downwind from major sources of air pollution (specifically sulfur dioxide emissions) have
Global dimming 71

generally cooled. This may explain the cooling of the eastern United States relative to the warming western part.[29]
However some research shows that black carbon will actually increase global warming, being second only to CO2.
They believe that soot will absorb solar energy and transport it to other areas such as the Himalayas where glacial
melting occurs. It can also darken Arctic ice reducing reflectivity and increasing absorption of solar radiation.[30]
Some climate scientists have theorized that aircraft contrails (also called vapor trails) are implicated in global
dimming, but the constant flow of air traffic previously meant that this could not be tested. The near-total shutdown
of civil air traffic during the three days following the September 11, 2001 attacks afforded a unique opportunity in
which to observe the climate of the United States absent from the effect of contrails. During this period, an increase
in diurnal temperature variation of over 1 °C (1.8 °F) was observed in some parts of the U.S., i.e. aircraft contrails
may have been raising nighttime temperatures and/or lowering daytime temperatures by much more than previously
Airborne volcanic ash can reflect the Sun's rays back into space and thereby contribute to cooling the planet. Dips in
earth temperatures have been observed after large volcano eruptions such as Mount Agung in Bali that erupted in
1963, El Chichon (Mexico) 1983, Ruiz (Colombia) 1985, and Pinatubo (Philippines) 1991. But even for major
eruptions, the ash clouds remain only for relatively short periods.[31]

Recent reversal of the trend

Wild et al., using measurements over
land, report brightening since 1990,[13]
[32] [33]
and Pinker et al.[34] found that
slight dimming continued over land
while brightening occurred over the
ocean.[35] Hence, over the land
surface, Wild et al. and Pinker et al.
disagree. A 2007 NASA sponsored
satellite-based study sheds light on the
Sun-blocking aerosols around the world steadily declined (red line) since the 1991
puzzling observations by other
eruption of Mount Pinatubo, according to satellite estimates. Credit: Michael
scientists that the amount of sunlight Mishchenko, NASA
reaching Earth's surface had been
steadily declining in recent decades, began to reverse around 1990. This switch from a "global dimming" trend to a
"brightening" trend happened just as global aerosol levels started to decline.[31] [36]

It is likely that at least some of this change, particularly over Europe, is due to decreases in airborne pollution. Most
governments of developed nations have taken steps to reduce aerosols released into the atmosphere, which helps
reduce global dimming.
Sulfate aerosols have declined significantly since 1970 with the Clean Air Act in the United States and similar
policies in Europe. The Clean Air Act was strengthened in 1977 and 1990. According to the EPA, from 1970 to
2005, total emissions of the six principal air pollutants, including PM’s, dropped by 53% in the US. In 1975, the
masked effects of trapped greenhouse gases finally started to emerge and have dominated ever since.[37]
The Baseline Surface Radiation Network(BSRN) has been collecting surface measurements. BSRN was started in
the early 1990s and updated the archives in this time. Analysis of recent data reveals that the surface of the planet
has brightened by about 4% in the past decade. The brightening trend is corroborated by other data, including
satellite analyses.
Global dimming 72

Relationship to hydrological cycle

Pollution produced by humans may be seriously
weakening the Earth's water cycle — reducing rainfall
and threatening fresh water supplies. A 2001 study by
researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography
suggests that tiny particles of soot and other pollutants
have a significant effect on the hydrological cycle.
According to Veerabhadran Ramanathan, "the energy
for the hydrological cycle comes from sunlight. As
sunlight heats the ocean, water escapes into the
atmosphere and falls out as rain. So as aerosols cut
down sunlight by large amounts, they may be spinning
down the hydrological cycle of the planet."[38]

Large scale changes in weather patterns may also have

been caused by global dimming. Climate modelers
speculatively suggest that this reduction in solar
radiation at the surface may have led to the failure of
the monsoon in sub-Saharan Africa during the 1970s
and 1980s, together with the associated famines such as This figure shows the level of agreement between a climate model
the Sahel drought, caused by Northern hemisphere driven by five factors and the historical temperature record. The
[39] negative component identified as "sulfate" is associated with the
pollution cooling the Atlantic. Because of this, the
aerosol emissions blamed for global dimming.
Tropical rain belt may not have risen to its northern
latitudes, thus causing an absence of seasonal rains.
This claim is not universally accepted and is very difficult to test. However a 2009 Chinese study of 50 years of
continuous data found that though most parts of eastern China saw no significant change in the amount of water held
by the atmosphere but light rains had decreased.[4] In addition, where the atmosphere transported water vapor didn't
coincide with light rain frequency. The researchers then modeled the effect of aerosols and also concluded the
overall effect was that water drops in polluted cases are up to 50 percent smaller than in pristine skies. They
concluded smaller size impedes the formation of rain clouds and the falling of light rain beneficial for agriculture; a
different effect than reducing solar irradiance, but still a direct result from the presence of aerosols.

The 2001 study by researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography concluded that the imbalance between
global dimming and global warming at the surface leads to weaker turbulent heat fluxes to the atmosphere. This
means globally reduced evaporation and hence precipitation occur in a dimmer and warmer world, which could
ultimately lead to a more humid atmosphere in which it rains less.[40]
A natural form of large scale environmental shading/dimming has been identified that affected the 2006 northern
hemisphere hurricane season. The NASA study found that several major dust storms in June and July in the Sahara
desert sent dust drifting over the Atlantic Ocean and through several effects caused cooling of the waters — and thus
dampening the development of hurricanes.[41] [42]

Relationship to global warming

Some scientists now consider that the effects of global dimming have masked the effect of global warming to some
extent and that resolving global dimming may therefore lead to increases in predictions of future temperature rise.[43]
According to Beate Liepert, "We lived in a global warming plus a global dimming world and now we are taking out
global dimming. So we end up with the global warming world, which will be much worse than we thought it will be,
much hotter."[44] The magnitude of this masking effect is one of the central problems in climate change with
Global dimming 73

significant implications for future climate changes and policy responses to global warming.[43]
Interactions between the two theories for climate modification have also been studied, as global warming and global
dimming are neither mutually exclusive nor contradictory. In a paper published on March 8, 2005 in the American
Geophysical Union's Geophysical Research Letters, a research team led by Anastasia Romanou of Columbia
University's Department of Applied Physics and Mathematics, New York, also showed that the apparently opposing
forces of global warming and global dimming can occur at the same time.[45] Global dimming interacts with global
warming by blocking sunlight that would otherwise cause evaporation and the particulates bind to water droplets.
Water vapor is the major greenhouse gas. On the other hand, global dimming is affected by evaporation and rain.
Rain has the effect of clearing out polluted skies.
Brown clouds have been found to amplify global warming according to Veerabhadran Ramanathan, an atmospheric
chemist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, CA. "The conventional thinking is that brown clouds
have masked as much as 50 percent of global warming by greenhouse gases through so-called global dimming...
While this is true globally, this study reveals that over southern and eastern Asia, the soot particles in the brown
clouds are in fact amplifying the atmospheric warming trend caused by greenhouse gases by as much as 50

Possible use to mitigate global warming

Some scientists have suggested using aerosols to stave off the effects of global warming as an emergency
geoengineering measure.[47] In 1974, Mikhail Budyko suggested that if global warming became a problem, the
planet could be cooled by burning sulfur in the stratosphere, which would create a haze.[48] [49] An increase in
planetary albedo of just 0.5 percent is sufficient to halve the effect of a CO2 doubling.[50]
The simplest solution would be to simply emit more sulfates, which would end up in troposphere - the lowest part of
the atmosphere. If this was done, Earth would still face many problems, such as:
• Using sulfates causes environmental problems such as acid rain[51]
• Using carbon black causes human health problems[51]
• Dimming causes ecological problems such as changes in evaporation and rainfall patterns[51]
• Droughts and/or increased rainfall cause problems for agriculture[51]
• Aerosol has a relatively short lifetime
The solution actually advocated is transporting sulfates into the next higher layer of the atmosphere - stratosphere.
Aerosols in the stratosphere last years instead of weeks - so only a relatively smaller (though still large) amount of
sulfate emissions would be necessary, and side effects would be less. This would require developing an efficient way
to transport large amounts of gases into stratosphere, many of which have been proposed [52] though none are
known to be effective or economically viable.
In a blog post, Gavin Schmidt stated that "Ideas that we should increase aerosol emissions to counteract global
warming have been described as a 'Faustian bargain' because that would imply an ever increasing amount of
emissions in order to match the accumulated greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, with ever increasing monetary and
health costs."[53]
Global dimming 74

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[21] Roderick, Michael L. and Farquhar, Graham D. (2002). "The Cause of Decreased Pan Evaporation over the Past 50 Years" (http:/ / www.
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Global dimming 75

[22] Liu B., Xu M., Henderson M. & Gong W. (2004). "A spatial analysis of pan evaporation trends in China, 1955-2000" (http:/ / www. agu.
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[23] Sington, David (January 15, 2005). "TV&Radio follow-up" (http:/ / www. bbc. co. uk/ sn/ tvradio/ programmes/ horizon/ dimming_qa.
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[24] Roderick, Michael L.; Leon D. Rotstayn, Graham D. Farquhar, Michael T. Hobbins (2007-09-13). "On the attribution of changing pan
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doi:10.1029/2007GL031166. .
[25] Rotstayn L.D., Roderick M.L. & Farquhar G.D. (2006). "A simple pan-evaporation model for analysis of climate simulations: Evaluation
over Australia" (http:/ / www. rsbs. anu. edu. au/ Profiles/ Graham_Farquhar/ documents/ 235doiRotstaynpanGRL2006. pdf) (PDF).
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(PDF). Nature 418 (6898): 601. doi:10.1038/418601a. PMID 12167846. .
[27] "Transported Black Carbon A Significant Player In Pacific Ocean Climate" (http:/ / www. sciencedaily. com/ releases/ 2007/ 03/
070314134655. htm). Science Daily. 2007-03-15. .
[28] J. Srinivasan et al. (2002). "Asian Brown Cloud – fact and fantasy" (http:/ / www. ias. ac. in/ currsci/ sep102002/ 586. pdf) (PDF). Current
Science 83 (5): 586–592. .
[29] "Crichton's Thriller State of Fear: Separating Fact from Fiction" (http:/ / www. ucsusa. org/ global_warming/ science/
crichton-thriller-state-of-fear. html). . Retrieved 2006-06-12.
[30] "Nature Geoscience: Global and regional climate changes due to black carbon" (http:/ / www. nature. com/ ngeo/ journal/ vaop/ ncurrent/
full/ ngeo156. html). . Retrieved 2008-03-26.
[31] "Global 'Sunscreen' Has Likely Thinned, Report NASA Scientists" (http:/ / www. nasa. gov/ centers/ goddard/ news/ topstory/ 2007/
aerosol_dimming. html). NASA. 2007-03-15. .
[32] Wild, M et al. (2005). "From Dimming to Brightening: Decadal Changes in Solar Radiation at Earth’s Surface" (http:/ / www. sciencemag.
org/ cgi/ content/ abstract/ 308/ 5723/ 847). Science 308 (2005-05-06): 847–850. doi:10.1126/science.1103215. PMID 15879214. .
[33] Wild, M., A. Ohmura, and K. Makowski (2007). "Impact of global dimming and brightening on global warming" (http:/ / www. agu. org/
pubs/ crossref/ 2007/ 2006GL028031. shtml). Geophysical Research Letters 34 (4): L04702. doi:10.1029/2006GL028031. .
[34] Pinker, et al.; Zhang, B; Dutton, EG (2005). "Do Satellites Detect Trends in Surface Solar Radiation?" (http:/ / www. sciencemag. org/ cgi/
content/ abstract/ 308/ 5723/ 850). Science 308 (6 May 2005): 850–854. doi:10.1126/science.1103159. PMID 15879215. .
[35] "Global Dimming may have a brighter future" (http:/ / www. realclimate. org/ index. php?p=154). . Retrieved 2006-06-12.
[36] Richard A. Kerr (2007-03-16). "Climate change: Is a Thinning Haze Unveiling the Real Global Warming?" (http:/ / www. sciencemag. org/
cgi/ content/ summary/ 315/ 5818/ 1480). Science (Science) 315 (5818): 1480. doi:10.1126/science.315.5818.1480. PMID 17363636. .
[37] "Air Emissions Trends - Continued Progress Through 2005" (http:/ / www. epa. gov/ airtrends/ econ-emissions. html). .
[38] Cat Lazaroff (2007-12-07). "Aerosol Pollution Could Drain Earth's Water Cycle" (http:/ / ens-newswire. com/ ens/ dec2001/ 2001-12-07-07.
asp). Environment News Service. .
[39] Rotstayn and Lohmann; Lohmann, Ulrike (2002). "Tropical Rainfall Trends and the Indirect Aerosol Effect" (http:/ / ams. allenpress. com/
perlserv/ ?request=get-abstract& issn=1520-0442& volume=015& issue=15& page=2103). Journal of Climate 15 (15): 2103–2116.
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[40] Kostel, Ken and Oh, Clare (2006-04-14). "Could Reducing Global Dimming Mean a Hotter, Dryer World?" (http:/ / www. ldeo. columbia.
edu/ news/ 2006/ 04_14_06. htm). Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory News. . Retrieved 2006-06-12.
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[42] "Did Dust Bust the 2006 Hurricane Season Forecasts?" (http:/ / www. nasa. gov/ mission_pages/ hurricanes/ archives/ 2007/ hurricane_dust.
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[43] Andreae O. M., Jones C. D., Cox P. M. (2005). "Strong present-day aerosol cooling implies a hot future" (http:/ / www. nature. com/ nature/
journal/ v435/ n7046/ abs/ nature03671. html). Nature 435 (7046): 1187–1190. doi:10.1038/nature03671. PMID 15988515. .
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[45] Alpert, P., P. Kishcha, Y. J. Kaufman, and R. Schwarzbard (2005). "Global dimming or local dimming?: Effect of urbanization on sunlight
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news/ news_summ. jsp?cntn_id=109712). . Retrieved 2008-04-03.
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Global dimming 76

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External links
• Roderick, Michael. "Global Dimming Bibliography" (
• Saunders, Alison. "Global Dimming Bibliography" (
Notable web pages
• Shah, Anup. "Global Dimming" (
asp). Global Issues.
• Liepert, Beate. "Global Dimming (requires flash)" (
globalDimming.swf). Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University.
• Schmidt, Gavin. "Global Dimming - part 1" ( RealClimate.
• Liepert, Beate. "Global Dimming - part 2" ( RealClimate.
• Connolley, William. "Global Dimming may have a brighter future" (
php?p=154). RealClimate.
• Haywood, Jim. "Met Office: Global dimming" (
explained/explained3.html). The Met Office.
• "Brown Cloud" ( (mp3).
• "BBC Global Dimming Q&A" (
News articles
• Adam, David (2003-12-18). "Goodbye Sunshine" (
0,13026,1108853,00.html). The Guardian.
• Chang, Kenneth (2004-05-13). "Globe Grows Darker as Sunshine Diminishes 10% to 37%" (http://www. The New York Times.
• Appell, David (2004-08-02). "The Darkening Earth Less sun at the Earth's surface complicates climate models"
( Scientific
• Keen, Kip (2004-09-22). "Dim Sun Global dimming? Global warming? What's with the globe, anyway?" (http:// Grist Magazine.
• Sington, David (2005-01-13). "Why the Sun seems to be 'dimming'" (
4171591.stm). BBC News.
• Onion, Amanda (2006-02-09). "Are Skies Dimming Over Earth? Data Suggest Human Pollution Can Lead to
Darker Days" ( ABC News.
• "Transported Black Carbon A Significant Player In Pacific Ocean Climate" (
releases/2007/03/070314134655.htm). Science Daily. 2007-03-15.
Global dimming 77

• "Global 'Sunscreen' Has Likely Thinned, Report NASA Scientists" (

news/topstory/2007/aerosol_dimming.html). NASA. 2007-03-15.
• Catherine, Brahic (2007-11-14). "Pollution is dimming India's sunshine" (
channel/earth/dn12919-pollution-is-dimming-indias-sunshine.html). New Scientist.
• Seinfeld, John (January 2008). "Atmospheric science: Black carbon and brown clouds" (http://www.nature.
com/ngeo/journal/v1/n1/full/ngeo.2007.62.html). Nature Geoscience 1 (1): 15–6.
Slide decks
• Irina N. Sokolik. "Atmospheric Aerosol and Air Pollution" (
IGBPbrief/Briefing_Sokolik.pdf) (PDF). School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Georgia Institute of
Technology Atlanta, GA, USA.
Television programs
• "Report on another consequence of global warming: the dimming effect of clouds" (
tvradio/programmes/horizon/dimming_prog_summary.shtml). BBC2 TV Horizon. 2005-01-15.
• "Dimming The Sun" ( PBS WGBH Boston NOVA. 2006-04-18.
• "BBC Horizon - Global Dimming - Google Video" (
videoplay?docid=39520879762623193). BBC Horizon.

Global warming potential

Global warming potential (GWP) is a relative measure of how much heat a greenhouse gas traps in the atmosphere.
It compares the amount of heat trapped by a certain mass of the gas in question to the amount heat trapped by a
similar mass of carbon dioxide. A GWP is calculated over a specific time interval, commonly 20, 100 or 500 years.
GWP is expressed as a factor of carbon dioxide (whose GMP is standardized to 1). For example, the 20 year GWP of
Methane is 56, which means if the same weights of Methane and carbon dioxide were introduced into the
atmosphere, that Methane will trap 56 times more heat than the carbon dioxide over the next 20 years.[1]
The substances subject to restrictions under the Kyoto protocol either are rapidly increasing their concentrations in
Earth's atmosphere or have a large GWP.
The GWP depends on the following factors:
• the absorption of infrared radiation by a given species
• the spectral location of its absorbing wavelengths
• the atmospheric lifetime of the species
Thus, a high GWP correlates with a large infrared absorption and a long atmospheric lifetime. The dependence of
GWP on the wavelength of absorption is more complicated. Even if a gas absorbs radiation efficiently at a certain
wavelength, this may not affect its GWP much if the atmosphere already absorbs most radiation at that wavelength.
A gas has the most effect if it absorbs in a "window" of wavelengths where the atmosphere is fairly transparent. The
dependence of GWP as a function of wavelength has been found empirically and published as a graph.[2]
Because the GWP of a greenhouse gas depends directly on its infrared spectrum, the use of infrared spectroscopy to
study greenhouse gases is centrally important in the effort to understand the impact of human activities on global
climate change.
Global warming potential 78

Calculating the global warming potential

Just as radiative forcing provides a simplified means of comparing the various factors that are believed to influence
the climate system to one another, Global Warming Potentials (GWPs) are one type of simplified index based upon
radiative properties that can be used to estimate the potential future impacts of emissions of different gases upon the
climate system in a relative sense. GWP is based on a number of factors, including the radiative efficiency
(infrared-absorbing ability) of each gas relative to that of carbon dioxide, as well as the decay rate of each gas (the
amount removed from the atmosphere over a given number of years) relative to that of carbon dioxide.[3]
The radiative forcing capacity (RF) is the amount of energy per unit area, per unit time, absorbed by the
greenhouse gas, that would otherwise be lost to space. It can be expressed by the formula:

where the subscript i represents an interval of 10 inverse centimeters. Absi represents the integrated infrared
absorbance of the sample in that interval, and Fi represents the RF for that interval.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) provides the generally accepted values for GWP, which
changed slightly between 1996 and 2001. An exact definition of how GWP is calculated is to be found in the IPCC's
2001 Third Assessment Report [4]. The GWP is defined as the ratio of the time-integrated radiative forcing from the
instantaneous release of 1 kg of a trace substance relative to that of 1 kg of a reference gas:

where TH is the time horizon over which the calculation is considered; ax is the radiative efficiency due to a unit
increase in atmospheric abundance of the substance (i.e., Wm−2 kg−1) and [x(t)] is the time-dependent decay in
abundance of the substance following an instantaneous release of it at time t=0. The denominator contains the
corresponding quantities for the reference gas (i.e. CO2). The radiative efficiencies ax and ar are not necessarily
constant over time. While the absorption of infrared radiation by many greenhouse gases varies linearly with their
abundance, a few important ones display non-linear behaviour for current and likely future abundances (e.g., CO2,
CH4, and N2O). For those gases, the relative radiative forcing will depend upon abundance and hence upon the
future scenario adopted.
Since all GWP calculations are a comparison to CO2 which is non-linear, all GWP values are affected. Assuming
otherwise as is done above will lead to lower GWPs for other gases than a more detailed approach would.

Use in Kyoto Protocol

Under the Kyoto Protocol, the Conference of the Parties decided (decision 2/CP.3) that the values of GWP calculated
for the IPCC Second Assessment Report are to be used for converting the various greenhouse gas emissions into
comparable CO2 equivalents when computing overall sources and sinks.[5]

Importance of time horizon

Note that a substance's GWP depends on the timespan over which the potential is calculated. A gas which is quickly
removed from the atmosphere may initially have a large effect but for longer time periods as it has been removed
becomes less important. Thus methane has a potential of 25 over 100 years but 72 over 20 years; conversely sulfur
hexafluoride has a GWP of 22,800 over 100 years but 16,300 over 20 years (IPCC TAR). The GWP value depends
on how the gas concentration decays over time in the atmosphere. This is often not precisely known and hence the
values should not be considered exact. For this reason when quoting a GWP it is important to give a reference to the
Global warming potential 79

The GWP for a mixture of gases can not be determined from the GWP of the constituent gases by any form of
simple linear addition.
Commonly, a time horizon of 100 years is used by regulators (e.g., the California Air Resources Board).

Carbon dioxide has a GWP of exactly 1 (since it is the baseline unit to which all other greenhouse gases are

Lifetime (years) GWP time horizon

GWP values and lifetimes from 2007 IPCC AR4 p212
20 years 100 years 500 years
(2001 IPCC TAR [7] in parentheses)

Methane 12         (12) 72         (62) 25         (23) 7.6       (7)

Nitrous oxide 114       (114) 289       (275) 298       (296) 153       (156)

HFC-23 (hydrofluorocarbon) 270       (260) 12,000   (9400) 14,800   (12,000) 12,200   (10,000)

HFC-134a (hydrofluorocarbon) 14         (13.8) 3,830     (3,300) 1,430     (1,300) 435       (400)

sulfur hexafluoride 3200     (3,200) 16,300   (15,100) 22,800   (22,200) 32,600   (32,400)

Although water vapour has a significant influence with regard to absorbing infrared radiation (which is the green
house effect; see greenhouse gas), its GWP is not calculated. Its concentration in the atmosphere mainly depends on
air temperature. There is no possibility to directly influence atmospheric water vapour concentration.

[1] "Global Warming Potentials" (http:/ / unfccc. int/ ghg_data/ items/ 3825. php). Climate Change 1995, The Science of Climate Change:
Summary for Policymakers. Technical Summary of the Working Group I Report, page 22.. 1995. . Retrieved 2011-04-26.
[2] Matthew Elrod, "Greenhouse Warming Potential Model." (http:/ / www. chem. tamu. edu/ rgroup/ north/ ITS GWP Data. xls) Based on
Journal of Chemical Education, Vol 76, pp. 1702-1705, December 1999
[3] "Glossary: Global warming potential (GWP)" (http:/ / www. eia. gov/ tools/ glossary/ index. cfm?id=G). U.S. Energy Information
Administration. . Retrieved 2011-04-26. "An index used to compare the relative radiative forcing of different gases without directly
calculating the changes in atmospheric concentrations. GWPs are calculated as the ratio of the radiative forcing that would result from the
emission of one kilogram of a greenhouse gas to that from the emission of one kilogram of carbon dioxide over a fixed period of time, such as
100 years."
[4] http:/ / www. grida. no/ climate/ ipcc_tar/ wg1/ 247. htm
[5] Conference of the Parties (25 March 1998). "Methodological issues related to the Kyoto Protocol" (http:/ / unfccc. int/ resource/ docs/ cop3/
07a01. pdf). Report of the Conference of the Parties on its third session, held at Kyoto from 1 to 11 December 1997 Addendum Part Two:
Action taken by the Conference of the Parties at its third session. UNFCCC. . Retrieved 17 January 2011.
[6] http:/ / www. ipcc. ch/ pdf/ assessment-report/ ar4/ wg1/ ar4-wg1-chapter2. pdf
[7] http:/ / www. grida. no/ climate/ ipcc_tar/ wg1/ 248. htm

External links
• 2007 IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) by Working Group 1 (
html) (WG1) and Chapter 2 of that report ( Changes in Atmospheric Constituents and in Radiative Forcing (http:/
/ which contains GWP information.
• 2001 IPCC Third Assessment Report (TAR) page on Global Warming Potentials (
climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/247.htm) and Direct GWP (
• List of Global Warming Potentials and Atmospheric Lifetimes (
html) from the U.S. EPA
• Greenhouse Gases and Global Warming Potential Values, Excerpt from the Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas
Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2000 (
Global warming potential 80

SHSU5BUM9T/$File/ghg_gwp.pdf) from the U.S. EPA

• An overview of the role of H2O as a greenhouse gas (
• GWP and the different meanings of CO2e explained (

Greenhouse effect
The greenhouse effect is a process by which thermal radiation from a
planetary surface is absorbed by atmospheric greenhouse gases, and is
re-radiated in all directions. Since part of this re-radiation is back
towards the surface, energy is transferred to the surface and the lower
atmosphere. As a result, the temperature there is higher than it would
be if direct heating by solar radiation were the only warming
mechanism.[1] [2]

This mechanism is fundamentally different from that of an actual

greenhouse, which works by isolating warm air inside the structure so
A representation of the exchanges of energy
that heat is not lost by convection. between the source (the Sun), the Earth's surface,
The greenhouse effect was discovered by Joseph Fourier in 1824, first the Earth's atmosphere, and the ultimate sink
outer space. The ability of the atmosphere to
reliably experimented on by John Tyndall in 1858, and first reported
capture and recycle energy emitted by the Earth
quantitatively by Svante Arrhenius in 1896.[3] surface is the defining characteristic of the
greenhouse effect.
If an ideal thermally conductive blackbody was the same distance from
the Sun as the Earth is, it would have a temperature of about 5.3 °C.
However, since the Earth reflects about 30%[4] (or 28%[5] ) of the incoming sunlight, the planet's effective
temperature (the temperature of a blackbody that would emit the same amount of radiation) is about −18 or −19
°C,[6] [7] about 33°C below the actual surface temperature of about 14 °C or 15 °C.[8] The mechanism that produces
this difference between the actual surface temperature and the effective temperature is due to the atmosphere and is
known as the greenhouse effect.

Global warming, a recent warming of the Earth's surface and lower atmosphere,[9] is believed to be the result of a
strengthening of the greenhouse effect mostly due to human-produced increases in atmospheric greenhouse gases.[10]

Basic mechanism
The Earth receives energy from the Sun in the form UV, visible, and near IR radiation, most of which passes through
the atmosphere without being absorbed. Of the total amount of energy available at the top of the atmosphere (TOA),
about 50% is absorbed at the Earth's surface. Because it is warm, the surface radiates far IR thermal radiation that
consists of wavelengths that are predominantly much longer than the wavelengths that were absorbed. Most of this
thermal radiation is absorbed by the atmosphere and re-radiated both upwards and downwards; that radiated
downwards is absorbed by the Earth's surface. This trapping of long-wavelength thermal radiation leads to a higher
equilibrium temperature than if the atmosphere were absent.
This highly simplified picture of the basic mechanism needs to be qualified in a number of ways, none of which
affect the fundamental process.
Greenhouse effect 81

• The incoming radiation from the Sun is mostly in the form of visible
light and nearby wavelengths, largely in the range 0.2–4 μm,
corresponding to the Sun's radiative temperature of 6,000 K.[11]
Almost half the radiation is in the form of "visible" light, which our
eyes are adapted to use.[12]
• About 50% of the Sun's energy is absorbed at the Earth's surface
and the rest is reflected or absorbed by the atmosphere. The
reflection of light back into space—largely by clouds—does not
much affect the basic mechanism; this light, effectively, is lost to
The solar radiation spectrum for direct light at
the system. both the top of the Earth's atmosphere and at sea
• The absorbed energy warms the surface. Simple presentations of the level

greenhouse effect, such as the idealized greenhouse model, show

this heat being lost as thermal radiation. The reality is more complex: the atmosphere near the surface is largely
opaque to thermal radiation (with important exceptions for "window" bands), and most heat loss from the surface
is by sensible heat and latent heat transport. Radiative energy losses become increasingly important higher in the
atmosphere largely because of the decreasing concentration of water vapor, an important greenhouse gas. It is
more realistic to think of the greenhouse effect as applying to a "surface" in the mid-troposphere, which is
effectively coupled to the surface by a lapse rate.
• Within the region where radiative effects are important the description given by the idealized greenhouse model
becomes realistic: The surface of the Earth, warmed to a temperature around 255 K, radiates long-wavelength,
infrared heat in the range 4–100 μm.[11] At these wavelengths, greenhouse gases that were largely transparent to
incoming solar radiation are more absorbent.[11] Each layer of atmosphere with greenhouses gases absorbs some
of the heat being radiated upwards from lower layers. To maintain its own equilibrium, it re-radiates the absorbed
heat in all directions, both upwards and downwards. This results in more warmth below, while still radiating
enough heat back out into deep space from the upper layers to maintain overall thermal equilibrium. Increasing
the concentration of the gases increases the amount of absorption and re-radiation, and thereby further warms the
layers and ultimately the surface below.[7]
• Greenhouse gases—including most diatomic gases with two different atoms (such as carbon monoxide, CO) and
all gases with three or more atoms—are able to absorb and emit infrared radiation. Though more than 99% of the
dry atmosphere is IR transparent (because the main constituents—N2, O2, and Ar—are not able to directly absorb
or emit infrared radiation), intermolecular collisions cause the energy absorbed and emitted by the greenhouse
gases to be shared with the other, non-IR-active, gases.
• The simple picture assumes equilibrium. In the real world there is the diurnal cycle as well as seasonal cycles and
weather. Solar heating only applies during daytime. During the night, the atmosphere cools somewhat, but not
greatly, because its emissivity is low, and during the day the atmosphere warms. Diurnal temperature changes
decrease with height in the atmosphere.
Greenhouse effect 82

Greenhouse gases
By their percentage contribution to the greenhouse effect on Earth the four major gases are:[13] [14]
• water vapor, 36–70%
• carbon dioxide, 9–26%
• methane, 4–9%
• ozone, 3–7%
The major non-gas contributor to the Earth's greenhouse effect, clouds, also absorb and emit infrared radiation and
thus have an effect on radiative properties of the atmosphere.[14]

Role in climate change

Strengthening of the greenhouse effect through human activities is
known as the enhanced (or anthropogenic) greenhouse effect.[15] This
increase in radiative forcing from human activity is attributable mainly
to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.[16]
CO2 is produced by fossil fuel burning and other activities such as
cement production and tropical deforestation.[17] Measurements of CO2
from the Mauna Loa observatory show that concentrations have
increased from about 313 ppm [18] in 1960 to about 389 ppm in 2010. The Keeling Curve of atmospheric CO2
The current observed amount of CO2 exceeds the geological record concentrations measured at Mauna Loa
[19] Observatory.
maxima (~300 ppm) from ice core data. The effect of
combustion-produced carbon dioxide on the global climate, a special
case of the greenhouse effect first described in 1896 by Svante Arrhenius, has also been called the Callendar effect.

Because it is a greenhouse gas, elevated CO2 levels contribute to additional absorption and emission of thermal
infrared in the atmosphere, which produce net warming. According to the latest Assessment Report from the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, "most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since
the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas
Over the past 800,000 years,[21] ice core data shows unambiguously that carbon dioxide has varied from values as
low as 180 parts per million (ppm) to the pre-industrial level of 270ppm.[22] Paleoclimatologists consider variations
in carbon dioxide to be a fundamental factor in controlling climate variations over this time scale.[23] [24]

Real greenhouses
The "greenhouse effect" is named by analogy to greenhouses. The
greenhouse effect and a real greenhouse are similar in that they both
limit the rate of thermal energy flowing out of the system, but the
mechanisms by which heat is retained are different.[25] A greenhouse
works primarily by preventing absorbed heat from leaving the structure
through convection, i.e. sensible heat transport. The greenhouse effect
heats the earth because greenhouse gases absorb outgoing radiative
energy and re-emit some of it back towards earth.

A greenhouse is built of any material that passes sunlight, usually A modern Greenhouse in RHS Wisley
glass, or plastic. It mainly heats up because the Sun warms the ground
Greenhouse effect 83

inside, which then warms the air in the greenhouse. The air continues to heat because it is confined within the
greenhouse, unlike the environment outside the greenhouse where warm air near the surface rises and mixes with
cooler air aloft. This can be demonstrated by opening a small window near the roof of a greenhouse: the temperature
will drop considerably. It has also been demonstrated experimentally (R. W. Wood, 1909) that a "greenhouse" with a
cover of rock salt (which is transparent to infra red) heats up an enclosure similarly to one with a glass cover.[26]
Thus greenhouses work primarily by preventing convective cooling.[27] [28]
In the greenhouse effect, rather than retaining (sensible) heat by physically preventing movement of the air,
greenhouse gases act to warm the Earth by re-radiating some of the energy back towards the surface. This process
may exist in real greenhouses, but is comparatively unimportant there.

Bodies other than Earth

In our solar system, Mars, Venus, and the moon Titan also exhibit greenhouse effects.[29] Titan has an
anti-greenhouse effect, in that its atmosphere absorbs solar radiation but is relatively transparent to infrared radiation.
Pluto also exhibits behavior superficially similar to the anti-greenhouse effect.[30] [31]
A runaway greenhouse effect occurs if positive feedbacks lead to the evaporation of all greenhouse gases into the
atmosphere.[32] A runaway greenhouse effect involving carbon dioxide and water vapor is thought to have occurred
on Venus.[33]

• Earth Radiation Budget,
• Businger, Joost Alois; Fleagle, Robert Guthrie (1980). An introduction to atmospheric physics. International
geophysics series (2nd ed.). San Diego: Academic. ISBN 0-12-260355-9.
• IPCC assessment reports, see
• Henderson-Sellers, Ann; McGuffie, Kendal (2005). A climate modelling primer (3rd ed.). New York: Wiley.
ISBN 0-470-85750-1. "Greenhouse effect: the effect of the atmosphere in re-reradiating longwave radiation back
to the surface of the Earth. It has nothing to do with glasshouses, which trap warm air at the surface."
• Idso, S.B. (1982). Carbon dioxide : friend or foe? : an inquiry into the climatic and agricultural consequences of
the rapidly rising CO2 content of Earth's atmosphere. Tempe, AZ: IBR Press. OCLC 63236418. "...the
phraseology is somewhat in appropriate, since CO2 does not warm the planet in a manner analogous to the way in
which a greenhouse keeps its interior warm"
• Kiehl, J.T., Trenberth, K. (1997). "Earth's annual mean global energy budget". Bulletin of the American
Meteorological Society 78 (2): 197–208. doi:10.1175/1520-0477(1997)078<0197:EAGMEB>2.0.CO;2.

[1] "Annex II Glossary" (http:/ / www. ipcc. ch/ publications_and_data/ ar4/ syr/ en/ annexessglossary-e-i. html). Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change. . Retrieved 15 October 2010.
[2] A concise description of the greenhouse effect is given in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report, "What
is the Greenhouse Effect?" IIPCC Fourth Assessment Report, Chapter 1 (http:/ / www. ipcc. ch/ pdf/ assessment-report/ ar4/ wg1/
ar4-wg1-chapter1. pdf), page 115: "To balance the absorbed incoming [solar] energy, the Earth must, on average, radiate the same amount of
energy back to space. Because the Earth is much colder than the Sun, it radiates at much longer wavelengths, primarily in the infrared part of
the spectrum (see Figure 1). Much of this thermal radiation emitted by the land and ocean is absorbed by the atmosphere, including clouds,
and reradiated back to Earth. This is called the greenhouse effect."
Stephen H. Schneider, in Geosphere-biosphere Interactions and Climate, Lennart O. Bengtsson and Claus U. Hammer, eds., Cambridge
University Press, 2001, ISBN 0521782384, pp. 90-91.
E. Claussen, V. A. Cochran, and D. P. Davis, Climate Change: Science, Strategies, & Solutions, University of Michigan, 2001. p. 373.
A. Allaby and M. Allaby, A Dictionary of Earth Sciences, Oxford University Press, 1999, ISBN 0192800795, p. 244.
[3] Annual Reviews (requires registration) (http:/ / arjournals. annualreviews. org/ doi/ full/ 10. 1146/ annurev. energy. 25. 1. 441)
[4] "NASA Earth Fact Sheet" (http:/ / nssdc. gsfc. nasa. gov/ planetary/ factsheet/ earthfact. html). . Retrieved 2010-10-15.
Greenhouse effect 84

[5] "Introduction to Atmospheric Chemistry, by Daniel J. Jacob, Princeton University Press, 1999. Chapter 7, "The Greenhouse Effect"" (http:/ /
acmg. seas. harvard. edu/ people/ faculty/ djj/ book/ bookchap7. html). . Retrieved 2010-10-15.
[6] "Solar Radiation and the Earth's Energy Balance" (http:/ / eesc. columbia. edu/ courses/ ees/ climate/ lectures/ radiation/ ).
. Retrieved 2010-10-15.
[7] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report. Chapter 1: Historical overview of climate change science (http:/ /
www. ipcc. ch/ pdf/ assessment-report/ ar4/ wg1/ ar4-wg1-chapter1. pdf) page 97
[8] The elusive "absolute surface air temperature," see GISS discussion (http:/ / data. giss. nasa. gov/ gistemp/ abs_temp. html)
[9] Merged land air and sea surface temperature data set (http:/ / www. ncdc. noaa. gov/ gcag/ gcagmerged. jsp)
[10] "Enhanced greenhouse effect – a hot international topic" (http:/ / www. science. org. au/ nova/ 016/ 016key. htm). Nova. Australian
Academy of Science. 2008. . The enhanced greenhouse effect]
[11] Mitchell, John F. B. (1989). "THE "GREENHOUSE" EFFECT AND CLIMATE CHANGE" (http:/ / astrosun2. astro. cornell. edu/
academics/ courses/ astro202/ Mitchell_GRL89. pdf). Reviews of Geophysics (American Geophysical Union) 27 (1): 115–139.
doi:10.1029/RG027i001p00115. . Retrieved 2008-03-23.
[12] "Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment (SOURCE)" (http:/ / earthobservatory. nasa. gov/ Features/ SORCE/ sorce_02. php). NASA.Gov.
. Retrieved 15 October 2010.
[13] "Water vapour: feedback or forcing?" (http:/ / www. realclimate. org/ index. php?p=142). RealClimate. 6 April 2005. . Retrieved
[14] Kiehl, J. T.; Kevin E. Trenberth (February 1997). "Earth’s Annual Global Mean Energy Budget" (http:/ / www. atmo. arizona. edu/ students/
courselinks/ spring04/ atmo451b/ pdf/ RadiationBudget. pdf) (PDF). Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 78 (2): 197–208.
doi:10.1175/1520-0477(1997)078<0197:EAGMEB>2.0.CO;2. . Retrieved 2009-12-23.
[15] "Enhanced greenhouse effect — Glossary" (http:/ / www. science. org. au/ nova/ 016/ 016glo. htm). Nova. Australian Academy of Science.
2006. .
[16] "Enhanced Greenhouse Effect" (http:/ / www. ace. mmu. ac. uk/ eae/ Global_Warming/ Older/ Enhanced_Greenhouse_Effect. html). . Retrieved 2010-10-15.
[17] IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, Working Group I Report "The Physical Science Basis" (http:/ / www. ipcc. ch/ pdf/ assessment-report/ ar4/
wg1/ ar4-wg1-chapter7. pdf) Chapter 7
[18] "Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide – Mauna Loa" (http:/ / www. esrl. noaa. gov/ gmd/ ccgg/ trends/ co2_data_mlo. html). NOAA. .
[19] Hansen J. (February 2005). "A slippery slope: How much global warming constitutes “dangerous anthropogenic interference”?" (http:/ /
www. springerlink. com/ content/ x283l27781675v51/ ?p=799ebc88193f4ecfa8ca76f6e28f45d7). Climatic Change 68 (333): 269–279.
doi:10.1007/s10584-005-4135-0. .
[20] IPCC Fourth Assessment Report Synthesis Report: Summary for Policymakers (http:/ / www. ipcc. ch/ pdf/ assessment-report/ ar4/ syr/
ar4_syr_spm. pdf) (p. 5)
[21] "Deep ice tells long climate story" (http:/ / news. bbc. co. uk/ 2/ hi/ science/ nature/ 5314592. stm). BBC News. 2006-09-04. . Retrieved
[22] Hileman B (2005-11-28). "Ice Core Record Extended" (http:/ / pubs. acs. org/ cen/ news/ 83/ i48/ 8348notw1. html). Chemical &
Engineering News 83 (48): 7. .
[23] Bowen, Mark; Thin Ice: Unlocking the Secrets of Climate in the World's Highest Mountains; Owl Books, 2005.
[24] Temperature change and carbon dioxide change (http:/ / www. ncdc. noaa. gov/ paleo/ globalwarming/ temperature-change. html), U.S.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
[25] Brian Shmaefsky (2004). Favorite demonstrations for college science: an NSTA Press journals collection (http:/ / books. google. com/
books?id=L4jtv2mX0iQC& pg=PA57). NSTA Press. p. 57. ISBN 9780873552424. .
[26] Wood, R.W. (1909). "Note on the Theory of the Greenhouse" (http:/ / www. wmconnolley. org. uk/ sci/ wood_rw. 1909. html).
Philosophical Magazine 17: 319–320. . "When exposed to sunlight the temperature rose gradually to 65 °C., the enclosure covered with the
salt plate keeping a little ahead of the other because it transmitted the longer waves from the Sun, which were stopped by the glass. In order to
eliminate this action the sunlight was first passed through a glass plate." "it is clear that the rock-salt plate is capable of transmitting practically
all of it, while the glass plate stops it entirely. This shows us that the loss of temperature of the ground by radiation is very small in
comparison to the loss by convection, in other words that we gain very little from the circumstance that the radiation is trapped.".
[27] Oort, Abraham H.; Peixoto, José Pinto (1992). Physics of climate. New York: American Institute of Physics. ISBN 0-88318-711-6. "...the
name water vapor-greenhouse effect is actually a misnomer since heating in the usual greenhouse is due to the reduction of convection"
[28] Schroeder, Daniel V. (2000). An introduction to thermal physics. San Francisco, California: Addison-Wesley. pp. 305–7.
ISBN 0-321-27779-1. "... this mechanism is called the greenhouse effect, even though most greenhouses depend primarily on a different
mechanism (namely, limiting convective cooling)."
[29] McKay, C.; Pollack, J.; Courtin, R. (1991). "The greenhouse and antigreenhouse effects on Titan". Science 253: 1118–21.
doi:10.1126/science.11538492. PMID 11538492.
[30] "Titan: Greenhouse and Anti-greenhouse :: Astrobiology Magazine - earth science - evolution distribution Origin of life universe - life
beyond :: Astrobiology is study of earth" (http:/ / www. astrobio. net/ news/ modules. php?op=modload& name=News& file=article&
sid=1762& mode=thread& order=0& thold=0). . Retrieved 2010-10-15.
[31] "Pluto Colder Than Expected" (http:/ / www. space. com/ scienceastronomy/ 060103_pluto_cold. html). 2006-01-03. .
Retrieved 2010-10-15.
Greenhouse effect 85

[32] Kasting, James F. (1991). "Runaway and moist greenhouse atmospheres and the evolution of Earth and Venus." (http:/ / books. nap. edu/
openbook. php?record_id=1790& page=234). Planetary Sciences: American and Soviet Research/Proceedings from the U.S.-U.S.S.R.
Workshop on Planetary Sciences. Commission on Engineering and Technical Systems (CETS). pp. 234–245. . Retrieved 2009.
[33] Rasool, I.; De Bergh, C.; De Bergh, C. (Jun 1970). "The Runaway Greenhouse and the Accumulation of CO2 in the Venus Atmosphere"
(http:/ / pubs. giss. nasa. gov/ docs/ 1970/ 1970_Rasool_DeBergh. pdf). Nature 226 (5250): 1037. doi:10.1038/2261037a0. ISSN 0028-0836.
PMID 16057644. . Retrieved 02/25/2009.

Greenhouse gas
A greenhouse gas (sometimes
abbreviated GHG) is a gas in an
atmosphere that absorbs and emits
radiation within the thermal infrared
range. This process is the fundamental
cause of the greenhouse effect.[1] The
primary greenhouse gases in the
Earth's atmosphere are water vapor,
carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous
oxide, and ozone. In the Solar System,
the atmospheres of Venus, Mars, and
Titan also contain gases that cause
greenhouse effects. Greenhouse gases
greatly affect the temperature of the
Earth; without them, Earth's surface Simple diagram of greenhouse effect.
would be on average about 33 °C
(59 °F)[2] colder than at present.[3] [4] [5]

Since the beginning of the Industrial revolution, the burning of fossil fuels has contributed to the increase in carbon
dioxide in the atmosphere from 280ppm to 390ppm.[6] [7] Unlike other pollutants, carbon dioxide emissions do not
result from inefficient combustion: CO2 is a product of ideal, stoichiometric combustion of carbon.[8] The emissions
of carbon are directly proportional to energy consumption.

Greenhouse effects in Earth's atmosphere

In order, the most abundant greenhouse gases in Earth's
atmosphere are:
• water vapor
• carbon dioxide
• methane
• nitrous oxide
• ozone
• chlorofluorocarbons
The contribution to the greenhouse effect by a gas is
affected by both the characteristics of the gas and its
abundance. For example, on a molecule-for-molecule

Modern global anthropogenic carbon emissions.

Greenhouse gas 86

basis methane is about eighty times stronger greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide,[9] but it is present in much smaller
concentrations so that its total contribution is smaller. When these gases are ranked by their contribution to the
greenhouse effect, the most important are:[10]

Gas Formula Contribution


Water vapor H2O 36 – 72 %

Carbon dioxide CO2 9 – 26 %

Methane CH4 4–9%

Ozone O3 3–7%

It is not possible to state that a certain gas causes an exact percentage of the greenhouse effect. This is because some
of the gases absorb and emit radiation at the same frequencies as others, so that the total greenhouse effect is not
simply the sum of the influence of each gas. The higher ends of the ranges quoted are for each gas alone; the lower
ends account for overlaps with the other gases.[10] [11] The major non-gas contributor to the Earth's greenhouse
effect, clouds, also absorb and emit infrared radiation and thus have an effect on radiative properties of the
greenhouse gases.[10] [11]
In addition to the main greenhouse gases listed above, other greenhouse gases include sulfur hexafluoride,
hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons (see IPCC list of greenhouse gases). Some greenhouse gases are not often
listed. For example, nitrogen trifluoride has a high global warming potential (GWP) but is only present in very small
Although contributing to many other physical and chemical reactions,
the major atmospheric constituents, nitrogen (N2), oxygen (O2), and
argon (Ar), are not greenhouse gases. This is because molecules
containing two atoms of the same element such as N2 and O2 and
monatomic molecules such as Ar have no net change in their dipole
moment when they vibrate and hence are almost totally unaffected by
infrared light. Although molecules containing two atoms of different
elements such as carbon monoxide (CO) or hydrogen chloride (HCl)
absorb IR, these molecules are short-lived in the atmosphere owing to
their reactivity and solubility. As a consequence they do not contribute
significantly to the greenhouse effect and are not often included when
discussing greenhouse gases.
Atmospheric absorption and scattering at
different electromagnetic wavelengths. The
Late 19th century scientists experimentally discovered that N2 and O2
largest absorption band of carbon dioxide is in the
do not absorb infrared radiation (called, at that time, "dark radiation") infrared.
while, at the contrary, water, as true vapour or condensed in the form
of microscopic droplets suspended in clouds, CO2 and other poly-atomic gaseous molecules do absorb infrared
radiation. It was recognized in the early 20th century that the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere caused the Earth's
overall temperature to be higher than it would be without them. During the late 20th century, a scientific consensus
has evolved that increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are causing a substantial rise in
global temperatures and changes to other parts of the climate system, with consequences for the environment and
human health.[13]
Greenhouse gas 87

Natural and anthropogenic sources

Aside from purely human-produced synthetic halocarbons, most
greenhouse gases have both natural and human-caused sources. During
the pre-industrial Holocene, concentrations of existing gases were
roughly constant. In the industrial era, human activities have added
greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, mainly through the burning of
fossil fuels and clearing of forests.[14] [15]

The 2007 Fourth Assessment Report compiled by the IPCC (AR4)

noted that "changes in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases
and aerosols, land cover and solar radiation alter the energy balance of 400,000 years of ice core data.
the climate system", and concluded that "increases in anthropogenic
greenhouse gas concentrations is very likely to have caused most of the
increases in global average temperatures since the mid-20th
century".[16] In AR4, "most of" is defined as more than 50%.

Top: Increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide

levels as measured in the atmosphere and
reflected in ice cores. Bottom: The amount of net
carbon increase in the atmosphere, compared to
carbon emissions from burning fossil fuel.

Gas Preindustrial level Current level   Increase since 1750   Radiative forcing (W/m2)

Carbon dioxide 280 ppm 388 ppm 108 ppm 1.46

Methane 700 ppb 1745 ppb 1045 ppb 0.48

Nitrous oxide 270 ppb 314 ppb 44 ppb 0.15

CFC-12 0 533 ppt 533 ppt 0.17

Ice cores provide evidence for variation in greenhouse gas concentrations over the past 800,000 years. Both CO2 and
CH4 vary between glacial and interglacial phases, and concentrations of these gases correlate strongly with
temperature. Direct data does not exist for periods earlier than those represented in the ice core record, a record
which indicates CO2 mole fractions staying within a range of between 180ppm and 280ppm throughout the last
800,000 years, until the increase of the last 250 years. However, various proxies and modeling suggests larger
variations in past epochs; 500 million years ago CO2 levels were likely 10 times higher than now.[17] Indeed higher
CO2 concentrations are thought to have prevailed throughout most of the Phanerozoic eon, with concentrations four
Greenhouse gas 88

to six times current concentrations during the Mesozoic era, and ten to fifteen times current concentrations during the
early Palaeozoic era until the middle of the Devonian period, about 400 Ma.[18] [19] [20] The spread of land plants is
thought to have reduced CO2 concentrations during the late Devonian, and plant activities as both sources and sinks
of CO2 have since been important in providing stabilising feedbacks.[21] Earlier still, a 200-million year period of
intermittent, widespread glaciation extending close to the equator (Snowball Earth) appears to have been ended
suddenly, about 550 Ma, by a colossal volcanic outgassing which raised the CO2 concentration of the atmosphere
abruptly to 12%, about 350 times modern levels, causing extreme greenhouse conditions and carbonate deposition as
limestone at the rate of about 1 mm per day.[22] This episode marked the close of the Precambrian eon, and was
succeeded by the generally warmer conditions of the Phanerozoic, during which multicellular animal and plant life
evolved. No volcanic carbon dioxide emission of comparable scale has occurred since. In the modern era, emissions
to the atmosphere from volcanoes are only about 1% of emissions from human sources.[22] [23]

Anthropogenic greenhouse gases

Since about 1750 human activity has
increased the concentration of carbon
dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
Measured atmospheric concentrations
of carbon dioxide are currently 100
ppm higher than pre-industrial
levels.[24] Natural sources of carbon
dioxide are more than 20 times greater
than sources due to human activity,[25]
but over periods longer than a few
years natural sources are closely
balanced by natural sinks, mainly
photosynthesis of carbon compounds
by plants and marine plankton. As a
result of this balance, the atmospheric
mole fraction of carbon dioxide
remained between 260 and 280 parts
per million for the 10,000 years
between the end of the last glacial
Global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions broken down into 8 different sectors for
maximum and the start of the industrial the year 2000.

It is likely that anthropogenic warming, such as that due to elevated greenhouse gas levels, has had a discernible
influence on many physical and biological systems. Warming is projected to affect various issues such as freshwater
resources, industry, food and health.[27]
The main sources of greenhouse gases due to human activity are:
Greenhouse gas 89

• burning of fossil fuels and

deforestation leading to higher
carbon dioxide concentrations in the
air. Land use change (mainly
deforestation in the tropics) account
for up to one third of total
anthropogenic CO2 emissions.[26]
• livestock enteric fermentation and
manure management,[28] paddy rice
farming, land use and wetland
changes, pipeline losses, and Per capita anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions by country for the year 2000
covered vented landfill emissions including land-use change.
leading to higher methane
atmospheric concentrations. Many of the newer style fully vented septic systems that enhance and target the
fermentation process also are sources of atmospheric methane.
• use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in refrigeration systems, and use of CFCs and halons in fire suppression
systems and manufacturing processes.
• agricultural activities, including the use of fertilizers, that lead to higher nitrous oxide (N2O) concentrations.
The seven sources of CO2 from fossil fuel combustion are (with percentage contributions for 2000–2004):[29]

Seven main fossil fuel Contribution

combustion sources (%)

Liquid fuels (e.g., gasoline, fuel oil) 36 %

Solid fuels (e.g., coal) 35 %

Gaseous fuels (e.g., natural gas) 20 %

Cement production 3%

Flaring gas industrially and at wells <1%

Non-fuel hydrocarbons <1%

"International bunker fuels" of 4%

not included in national inventories

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ranks the major greenhouse gas contributing end-user sectors in
the following order: industrial, transportation, residential, commercial and agricultural.[30] Major sources of an
individual's greenhouse gas include home heating and cooling, electricity consumption, and transportation.
Corresponding conservation measures are improving home building insulation, installing geothermal heat pumps and
compact fluorescent lamps, and choosing energy-efficient vehicles.
Carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and three groups of fluorinated gases (sulfur hexafluoride, HFCs, and PFCs)
are the major greenhouse gases and the subject of the Kyoto Protocol, which came into force in 2005.[31]
Although CFCs are greenhouse gases, they are regulated by the Montreal Protocol, which was motivated by CFCs'
contribution to ozone depletion rather than by their contribution to global warming. Note that ozone depletion has
only a minor role in greenhouse warming though the two processes often are confused in the media.
On December 7, 2009, the US Environmental Protection Agency released its final findings on greenhouse gases,
declaring that "greenhouse gases (GHGs) threaten the public health and welfare of the American people". The
finding applied to the same "six key well-mixed greenhouse gases" named in the Kyoto Protocol: carbon dioxide,
methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride.[32] [33]
Greenhouse gas 90

Role of water vapor

Water vapor accounts for the largest
percentage of the greenhouse effect,
between 36% and 66% for clear sky
conditions and between 66% and 85%
when including clouds.[11] Water vapor
concentrations fluctuate regionally, but
human activity does not significantly
affect water vapor concentrations
except at local scales, such as near
irrigated fields. The atmospheric
concentration of vapor is highly
variable, from less than 0.01% in Increasing water vapor in the stratosphere at Boulder, Colorado.
extremely cold regions up to 2% in
warm, humid regions.[34]

The average residence time of a water molecule in the atmosphere is only about nine days, compared to years or
centuries for other greenhouse gases such as CH4 and CO2. Thus, water vapor responds to and amplifies effects of
the other greenhouse gases. The Clausius-Clapeyron relation establishes that air can hold more water vapor per unit
volume when it warms. This and other basic principles indicate that warming associated with increased
concentrations of the other greenhouse gases also will increase the concentration of water vapor. Because water
vapor is a greenhouse gas this results in further warming, a "positive feedback" that amplifies the original warming.
This positive feedback does not result in runaway global warming because it is offset by other processes which
stabilize average global temperatures.[35]

Greenhouse gas emissions

The two primary sources of CO2 emissions are from burning coal used
for electricity generation and petroleum used for motor transport.
Measurements from Antarctic ice cores show that before industrial
emissions started atmospheric CO2 mole fractions were about 280 parts
per million (ppm), and stayed between 260 and 280 during the
preceding ten thousand years.[36] Carbon dioxide mole fractions in the
atmosphere have gone up by approximately 35 percent since the 1900s,
rising from 280 parts per million by volume to 387 parts per million in
2009. One study using evidence from stomata of fossilized leaves
suggests greater variability, with carbon dioxide mole fractions above
300 ppm during the period seven to ten thousand years ago,[37] though
Recent year-to-year increase of atmospheric CO2.

others have argued that these findings more likely reflect calibration or
contamination problems rather than actual CO2 variability.[38] [39] Because of the way air is trapped in ice (pores in
the ice close off slowly to form bubbles deep within the firn) and the time period represented in each ice sample
analyzed, these figures represent averages of atmospheric concentrations of up to a few centuries rather than annual
or decadal levels.

Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the concentrations of most of the greenhouse gases have increased.
For example, the mole fraction of carbon dioxide has increased by about 36% to 380 ppm, or 100 ppm over modern
pre-industrial levels. The first 50 ppm increase took place in about 200 years, from the start of the Industrial
Greenhouse gas 91

Revolution to around 1973; however the next 50 ppm increase took place in about 33 years, from 1973 to 2006.[40]
Recent data also shows that the concentration is increasing at a higher rate. In the 1960s, the average annual increase
was only 37% of what it was in 2000 through 2007.[41]
The other greenhouse gases produced from human activity show similar increases in both amount and rate of
increase. Many observations are available online in a variety of Atmospheric Chemistry Observational Databases.

Relevant to radiative forcing

Gas Current (1998) Increase Increase Radiative
Amount by volume (absolute, ppm) (relative, %) forcing
over pre-industrial (1750) over pre-industrial (1750) (W/m2)

Carbon dioxide 365 ppm 87 ppm 31 % 1.46

(383 ppm, 2007.01) (105 ppm, 2007.01) (38 %, 2007.01) (~1.53, 2007.01)

Methane 1745 ppb 1045 ppb 150 % 0.48

Nitrous oxide 314 ppb 44 ppb 16 % 0.15

Relevant to both radiative forcing and ozone depletion; all of the following have no natural
sources and hence zero amounts pre-industrial
Gas Current (1998) Radiative
Amount by volume forcing

CFC-11 268 ppt 0.07

CFC-12 533 ppt 0.17

CFC-113 84 ppt 0.03

Carbon tetrachloride 102 ppt 0.01

HCFC-22 69 ppt 0.03

(Source: IPCC radiative forcing report 1994 updated (to 1998) by IPCC TAR table 6.1[42] [43] ).
Greenhouse gas 92

Regional and national attribution of emissions

There are several different ways of
measuring GHG emissions (see World
Bank (2010, p. 362) for a table of
national emissions data).[44]
Some variables that have been
reported[45] include:
• Definition of measurement
boundaries. Emissions can be
attributed geographically, to the
area where they were emitted (the
territory principle) or by the activity
principle to the territory that caused
the emissions to be produced. These
two principles would result in Major greenhouse gas trends.
different totals when measuring for
example the importation of electricity from one country to another or the emissions at an international airport.
• The time horizon of different GHGs. Contribution of a given GHG is reported as a CO2 equivalent; the
calculation to determine this takes into account how long that gas remains in the atmosphere. This is not always
known accurately and calculations must be regularly updated to take into account new information.
• What sectors are included in the calculation (e.g. energy industries, industrical processes, agriculture etc.). There
is often a conflict between transparency and availability of data.
• The measurement protocol itself. This may be via direct measurement or estimation; the four main methods are
the emission factor-based method, the mass balance method, the predictive emissions monitoring system and the
continuing emissions monitoring systems. The methods differ in accuracy, but also in cost and usability.
The different measures are sometimes used by different countries in asserting various policy/ethical positions to do
with climate change (Banuri et al., 1996, p. 94).[46] This use of different measures leads to a lack of comparability,
which is problematic when monitoring progress towards targets. There are arguments for the adoption of a common
measurement tool, or at least the development of communication between different tools.[45]
Emissions may be measured over long time periods. This measurement type is called historical or cumulative
emissions. Cumulative emissions give some indication of who is responsible for the build-up in the atmospheric
concentration of GHGs (IEA, 2007, p. 199).[47]
Emissions may also be measured across shorter time periods. Emissions changes may, for example, be measured
against a base year of 1990. 1990 was used in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
(UNFCCC) as the base year for emissions, and is also used in the Kyoto Protocol (some gases are also measured
from the year 1995) (Grubb, 2003, pp. 146, 149).[48] A country's emissions may also be reported as a proportion of
global emissions for a particular year.
Another measurement is of per capita emissions. This divides a country's total annual emissions by its mid-year
population (World Bank, 2010, p. 370). Per capita emissions may be based on historical or annual emissions (Banuri
et al., 1996, pp. 106–107).
Greenhouse gas 93

Greenhouse gas intensity and land-use change

The figure opposite is based on data

from the World Resources Institute,
and shows a measurement of GHG
emissions for the year 2000 according
to greenhouse gas intensity and
land-use change. Herzog et al. (2006,
p. 3) defined greenhouse gas intensity
as GHG emissions divided by
economic output.[49] GHG intensities
are subject to uncertainty over whether
they are calculated using market
Greenhouse gas intensity in 2000 including land-use change.
exchange rates (MER) or purchasing
power parity (PPP) (Banuri et al.,
1996, p. 96).[46] Calculations based on MER suggest large differences in intensities between developed and
developing countries, whereas calculations based on PPP show smaller differences.

Land-use change, e.g., the clearing of forests for agricultural use, can affect the concentration of GHGs in the
atmosphere by altering how much carbon flows out of the atmosphere into carbon sinks.[50] Accounting for land-use
change can be understood as an attempt to measure “net” emissions, i.e., gross emissions from all GHG sources
minus the removal of emissions from the atmosphere by carbon sinks (Banuri et al., 1996, pp. 92–93).
There are substantial uncertainties in the measurement of net carbon emissions.[51] Additionally, there is controversy
over how carbon sinks should be allocated between different regions and over time (Banuri et al., 1996, p. 93). For
instance, concentrating on more recent changes in carbon sinks is likely to favour those regions that have deforested
earlier, e.g., Europe.

Cumulative and historical emissions

Top-5 historic CO2 contributors by region over the years 1800 to 1988 (in %)
Region Industrial Total

OECD North America 33.2 29.7

OECD Europe 26.1 16.6

Former USSR 14.1 12.5

China 5.5 6.0

Eastern Europe 5.5 4.8

The table above is based on Banuri et al. (1996, p. 94).[46] Overall, developed countries accounted for 83.8% of
industrial CO2 emissions over this time period, and 67.8% of total CO2 emissions. Developing countries accounted
for industrial CO2 emissions of 16.2% over this time period, and 32.2% of total CO2 emissions. The estimate of total
CO2 emissions includes biotic carbon emissions, mainly from deforestation. Banuri et al. (1996, p. 94) calculated per
capita cumulative emissions based on then-current population. The ratio in per capita emissions between
industrialized countires and developing countries was estimated to be more than 10 to 1.
Including biotic emissions brings about the same controversy mentioned earlier regarding carbon sinks and land-use
change (Banuri et al., 1996, pp. 93–94). The actual calculation of net emissions is very complex, and is affected by
how carbon sinks are allocated between regions (an equity consideration), and the dynamics of the climate system.
Greenhouse gas 94

The International Energy Agency (IEA, 2007, p. 201) compared cumulative energy-related CO2 emissions for
several countries and regions.[47] Over the time period 1900-2005, the US accounted for 30% of total cumulative
emissions; the EU, 23%; China, 8%; Japan, 4%; and India, 2%. The rest of the world accounted for 33% of global,
cumulative, energy-related CO2 emissions.

Changes since a particular base year

In total, Annex I Parties managed a cut of 3.3% in GHG emissions between 1990 and 2004 (UNFCCC, 2007,
p. 11).[52] Annex I Parties are those countries listed in Annex I of the UNFCCC, and are the industrialized countries.
For non-Annex I Parties, emissions in several large developing countries and fast growing economies (China, India,
Thailand, Indonesia, Egypt, and Iran) GHG emissions have increased rapidly over this period (PBL, 2009).[53]
The sharp acceleration in CO2 emissions since 2000 to more than a 3% increase per year (more than 2 ppm per year)
from 1.1% per year during the 1990s is attributable to the lapse of formerly declining trends in carbon intensity of
both developing and developed nations. China was responsible for most of global growth in emissions during this
period. Localised plummeting emissions associated with the collapse of the Soviet Union have been followed by
slow emissions growth in this region due to more efficient energy use, made necessary by the increasing proportion
of it that is exported.[29] In comparison, methane has not increased appreciably, and N2O by 0.25% y−1.

Annual and per capita emissions

At the present time, total annual

emissions of GHGs are rising (Rogner
et al., 2007).[54] Between the period
1970 to 2004, emissions increased at
an average rate of 1.6% per year, with
CO2 emissions from the use of fossil
fuels growing at a rate of 1.9% per

Today, the stock of carbon in the

atmosphere increases by more than 3
million tonnes per annum (0.04%) Per capita responsibility for current anthropogenic atmospheric CO2.
compared with the existing stock. This
increase is the result of human activities by burning fossil fuels, deforestation and forest degradation in tropical and
boreal regions.[55]

Per capita emissions in the industrialized countries are typically as much as ten times the average in developing
countries (Grubb, 2003, p. 144).[48] Due to China's fast economic development, its per capita emissions are quickly
approaching the levels of those in the Annex I group of the Kyoto Protocol (PBL, 2009).[56] Other countries with fast
growing emissions are South Korea, Iran, and Australia. On the other hand, per capita emissions of the EU-15 and
the USA are gradually decreasing over time. Emissions in Russia and the Ukraine have decreased fastest since 1990
due to economic restructuring in these countries (Carbon Trust, 2009, p. 24).[57]
Energy statistics for fast growing economies are less accurate than those for the industrialized countries. For China's
annual emissions in 2008, PBL (2008) estimated an uncertainty range of about 10%.
Greenhouse gas 95

Top emitters
In 2005, the world's top-20 emitters comprised 80% of total GHG emissions (PBL, 2010. See notes for the following
table).[58] Tabulated below are the top-5 emitters for the year 2005 (MNP, 2007).[59] The second column is the
country's or region's share of the global total of annual emissions. The third column is the country's or region's
average annual per capita emissions, in tonnes of GHG per head of population:

Top-5 emitters for the year 2005

Country or region % of global total Tonnes of
annual emissions GHG
per capita

16 % 24.1
United Statesa

6% 12.9

11 % 10.6
European Union-27a

17 % 5.8

India 5% 2.1

Table footnotes:

• These values are for the GHG emissions from fossil fuel use and cement production. Calculations are for carbon dioxide (CO2), methane
(CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and gases containing fluorine (the F-gases HFCs, PFCs and SF6).
• These estimates are subject to large uncertainties regarding CO2 emissions from deforestation; and the per country emissions of other GHGs
(e.g., methane). There are also other large uncertainties which mean that small differences between countries are not significant. CO2
emissions from the decay of remaining biomass after biomass burning/deforestation are not included.
• Industrialised countries: official country data reported to UNFCCC.
• Excluding underground fires.
• Including an estimate of 2000 million tonnes CO2 from peat fires and decomposition of peat soils after draining. However, the uncertainty
range is very large.

Embedded emissions
One way of attributing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is to measure the embedded emissions (also referred to as
"embodied emissions") of goods that are being consumed. Emissions are usually measured according to production,
rather than consumption (Helm et al., 2007, p. 3).[60] Under a production-based accounting of emissions, embedded
emissions on imported goods are attributed to the exporting, rather than the importing, country. Under a
consumption-based accounting of emissions, embedded emissions on imported goods are attributed to the importing
country, rather than the exporting, country.
Davis and Caldeira (2010, p. 4) found that a substantial proportion of CO2 emissions are traded internationally.[61]
The net effect of trade was to export emissions from China and other emerging markets to consumers in the US,
Japan, and Western Europe. Based on annual emissions data from the year 2004, and on a per-capita consumption
basis, the top-5 emitting countries were found to be (in tCO2 per person, per year): Luxembourg (34.7), the US
(22.0), Singapore (20.2), Australia (16.7), and Canada (16.6) (Davis and Caldeira, 2010, p. 5).
Greenhouse gas 96

Effect of policy
Rogner et al. (2007) assessed the effectiveness of policies to reduce emissions (mitigation of climate change).[54]
They concluded that mitigation policies undertaken by UNFCCC Parties were inadequate to reverse the trend of
increasing GHG emissions. The impacts of population growth, economic development, technological investment,
and consumption had overwhelmed improvements in energy intensities and efforts to decarbonize (energy intensity
is a country's total primary energy supply (TPES) per unit of GDP (Rogner et al., 2007).[62] TPES is a measure of
commercial energy consumption (World Bank, 2010, p. 371)).[44]

Based on then-current energy policies, Rogner et al. (2007) projected that energy-related CO2 emissions in 2030
would be 40-110% higher than in 2000.[54] Two-thirds of this increase was projected to come from non-Annex I
countries. Per capita emissions in Annex I countries were still projected to remain substantially higher than per
capita emissions in non-Annex I countries. Projections consistently showed a 25-90% increase in the Kyoto gases
(carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulphur hexafluoride) compared to 2000.
IEA (2007, p. 199) estimated future cumulative energy-related CO2 emissions for several countries.[47] Their
reference scenario projected cumulative energy-related CO2 emissions between the years 1900 and 2030. In this
scenario, China’s share of cumulative emissions rises to 16%, approaching that of the United States (25%) and the
European Union (18%). India’s cumulative emissions (4%) approach those of Japan (4%).

Relative CO2 emission from various fuels

One liter of gasoline, when used as a fuel, produces about 2.32 kg (19.4 lb/US gallon) of carbon dioxide, a
greenhouse gas.[63] [64]

Mass of carbon dioxide emitted per quantity of energy for various fuels[65]
Fuel name CO2 CO2
emitted emitted
(lbs/106 Btu) (g/106 J)

Natural gas 117 50.30

Liquefied petroleum gas 139 59.76

Propane 139 59.76

Aviation gasoline 153 65.78

Automobile gasoline 156 67.07

Kerosene 159 68.36

Fuel oil 161 69.22

Tires/tire derived fuel 189 81.26

Wood and wood waste 195 83.83

Coal (bituminous) 205 88.13

Coal (subbituminous) 213 91.57

Coal (lignite) 215 92.43

Petroleum coke 225 96.73

Coal (anthracite) 227 97.59

Greenhouse gas 97

Removal from the atmosphere and global warming potential

Natural processes
Greenhouse gases can be removed from the atmosphere by various processes, as a consequence of:
• a physical change (condensation and precipitation remove water vapor from the atmosphere).
• a chemical reactions within the atmosphere. For example, methane is oxidized by reaction with naturally
occurring hydroxyl radical, OH· and degraded to CO2 and water vapor (CO2 from the oxidation of methane is not
included in the methane Global warming potential). Other chemical reactions include solution and solid phase
chemistry occurring in atmospheric aerosols.
• a physical exchange between the atmosphere and the other compartments of the planet. An example is the mixing
of atmospheric gases into the oceans.
• a chemical change at the interface between the atmosphere and the other compartments of the planet. This is the
case for CO2, which is reduced by photosynthesis of plants, and which, after dissolving in the oceans, reacts to
form carbonic acid and bicarbonate and carbonate ions (see ocean acidification).
• a photochemical change. Halocarbons are dissociated by UV light releasing Cl· and F· as free radicals in the
stratosphere with harmful effects on ozone (halocarbons are generally too stable to disappear by chemical reaction
in the atmosphere).

Atmospheric lifetime
Aside from water vapor, which has a residence time of about nine days,[66] major greenhouse gases are well-mixed,
and take many years to leave the atmosphere.[67] Although it is not easy to know with precision how long it takes
greenhouse gases to leave the atmosphere, there are estimates for the principal greenhouse gases. Jacob (1999)[68]
defines the lifetime of an atmospheric species X in a one-box model as the average time that a molecule of X
remains in the box. Mathematically can be defined as the ratio of the mass (in kg) of X in the box to its
removal rate, which is the sum of the flow of X out of the box ( ), chemical loss of X ( ), and deposition of
X( ) (all in kg/sec):

The atmospheric lifetime of a species therefore measures the time required to restore equilibrium following an
increase in its concentration in the atmosphere. Individual atoms or molecules may be lost or deposited to sinks such
as the soil, the oceans and other waters, or vegetation and other biological systems, reducing the excess to
background concentrations. The average time taken to achieve this is the mean lifetime. The atmospheric lifetime of
CO2 is often incorrectly stated to be only a few years because that is the average time for any CO2 molecule to stay
in the atmosphere before being removed by mixing into the ocean, photosynthesis, or other processes. However, this
ignores the balancing fluxes of CO2 into the atmosphere from the other reservoirs. It is the net concentration changes
of the various greenhouse gases by all sources and sinks that determines atmospheric lifetime, not just the removal

Global warming potential

The global warming potential (GWP) depends on both the efficiency of the molecule as a greenhouse gas and its
atmospheric lifetime. GWP is measured relative to the same mass of CO2 and evaluated for a specific timescale.
Thus, if a gas has a high radiative forcing but also a short lifetime, it will have a large GWP on a 20 year scale but a
small one on a 100 year scale. Conversely, if a molecule has a longer atmospheric lifetime than CO2 its GWP will
increase with the timescale considered.
Carbon dioxide has a variable atmospheric lifetime, and cannot be specified precisely.[69] Recent work indicates that
recovery from a large input of atmospheric CO2 from burning fossil fuels will result in an effective lifetime of tens of
thousands of years.[70] [71] Carbon dioxide is defined to have a GWP of 1 over all time periods.
Greenhouse gas 98

Methane has an atmospheric lifetime of 12 ± 3 years and a GWP of 72 over 20 years, 25 over 100 years and 7.6 over
500 years. The decrease in GWP at longer times is because methane is degraded to water and CO2 through chemical
reactions in the atmosphere.
Examples of the atmospheric lifetime and GWP relative to CO2 for several greenhouse gases are given in the
following table:[72]

Atmospheric lifetime and GWP relative to CO2 at different time horizon for various
greenhouse gases.
Gas name Chemical Lifetime Global warming potential (GWP) for given time horizon
formula (years)
20-yr 100-yr 500-yr

Carbon dioxide CO2 See above 1 1 1

Methane CH4 12 72 25 7.6

Nitrous oxide N2O 114 289 298 153

CFC-12 CCl2F2 100 11 000 10 900 5 200

HCFC-22 CHClF2 12 5 160 1 810 549

Tetrafluoromethane CF4 50 000 5 210 7 390 11 200

Hexafluoroethane C2F6 10 000 8 630 12 200 18 200

Sulphur hexafluoride SF6 3 200 16 300 22 800 32 600

Nitrogen trifluoride NF3 740 12 300 17 200 20 700

The use of CFC-12 (except some essential uses) has been phased out due to its ozone depleting properties.[73] The
phasing-out of less active HCFC-compounds will be completed in 2030.[74]

Airborne fraction
Airborne fraction (AF) is the proportion of an emission (e.g. CO2) remaining in the atmosphere after a specified
time. Canadell (2007)[75] define the annual AF as the ratio of the atmospheric CO2 increase in a given year to that
year’s total emissions, and calculate that of the average 9.1 PgC y−1 of total anthropogenic emissions from 2000 to
2006, the AF was 0.45. For CO2 the AF over the last 50 years (1956–2006) has been increasing at 0.25 ±

Negative emissions
There exists a number of technologies which produce negative emissions of greenhouse gases. Most widely analysed
are those which remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, either to geologic formations such as bio-energy with
carbon capture and storage[76] [77] [78] and carbon dioxide air capture,[78] or to the soil as in the case with biochar.[78]
It has been pointed out by the IPCC, that many long-term climate scenario models require large scale manmade
negative emissions in order to avoid serious climate change.[79]
Greenhouse gas 99

Related effects
Carbon monoxide has an indirect radiative effect by
elevating concentrations of methane and tropospheric
ozone through scavenging of atmospheric constituents
(e.g., the hydroxyl radical, OH) that would otherwise
destroy them. Carbon monoxide is created when
carbon-containing fuels are burned incompletely.
Through natural processes in the atmosphere, it is
eventually oxidized to carbon dioxide. Carbon monoxide
has an atmospheric lifetime of only a few months[80] and
as a consequence is spatially more variable than
longer-lived gases.

Another potentially important indirect effect comes from

methane, which in addition to its direct radiative impact
also contributes to ozone formation. Shindell et al.
(2005)[81] argue that the contribution to climate change
from methane is at least double previous estimates as a
result of this effect.[82]
MOPITT 2000 global carbon monoxide.

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Greenhouse gas 101

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G. (2007). "Contributions to accelerating atmospheric CO2 growth from economic activity, carbon intensity, and efficiency of natural sinks"
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Greenhouse gas 103


External links
• Greenhouse gas ( at the Open Directory
• The NOAA Annual Greenhouse Gas Index (AGGI) (
• Atmospheric spectra of GHGs and other trace gases (
• Greenhouse Gases ( Sources, Levels, Study
results — University of Michigan; findings
• How Much Greenhouse Gas Does the United States Emit? (
• Grist article on convenient summary from various sources incl IPCC of greenhouse gas emissions (http:// * *
• Convenient summary of Greenhouse gas emissions (
• Greenhouse Gases (
Carbon dioxide emissions
• Carbon Emissions World Map in 2009 (
10/CarbonWeb.pdf) Mark McCormick and Paul Scruton, Guardian February 2011
• Eddy covariance
• International Energy Annual: Reserves (
• International Energy Annual 2003: Carbon Dioxide Emissions (
• International Energy Annual 2003: Notes and Sources for Table H.1co2 (
Notes for Table H_1co2.html) (Metric tons of carbon dioxide can be converted to metric tons of carbon
equivalent by multiplying by 12/44)
• Textbook on Eddy Covariance Measurements of Gas Emissions (
• Trends in Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide ( (NOAA)
• NOAA Paleoclimatology Program — Vostok Ice Core (
• NOAA CMDL CCGG — Interactive Atmospheric Data Visualization (
) NOAA CO2 data
• Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Centre FAQ ( Includes links to
Carbon Dioxide statistics
• Little Green Data Book 2007 (
21322619/LGDB2007.pdf), World Bank. Lists CO2 statistics by country, including per capita and by country
income class.
• Database of carbon emissions of power plants (
• NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory (
Methane emissions
• Eddy covariance
• BBC News — Thawing Siberian bogs are releasing more methane (
Greenhouse gas 104

• Textbook on Eddy Covariance Measurements of Gas Emissions (


Land use, land-use change and forestry

Land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) is defined by the UN Climate Change Secretariat as "A
greenhouse gas inventory sector that covers emissions and removals of greenhouse gases resulting from direct
human-induced land use, land-use change and forestry activities."[1]
LULUCF has impacts on the global carbon cycle and as such these activities can add or remove carbon dioxide (or,
more generally, carbon) from the atmosphere, contributing to climate change. LULUCF has been the subject of two
major reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Additionally, land use is of critical
importance for biodiversity.

Climatic impacts of land-use, land-use change and forestry

Land-use change can be a factor in CO2 atmospheric
concentration, and is thus a contributor to climate change.
IPCC estimates that land-use change (e.g. conversion of
forest into agricultural land) contributes a net 1.6 ± 0.8 Gt
carbon per year to the atmosphere. For comparison, the
major source of CO2, namely emissions from fossil fuel
combustion and cement production amount to 6.3 ± 0.6
Gt carbon per year.[2] This decision sets out the rules that
govern how Kyoto Parties with emission reduction Per capita greenhouse gas emissions by country including
land-use change
commitments (co-called Annex 1 Parties) account for
changes in carbon stocks in land use, land-use change and
forestry. It is mandatory for Annex 1 Parties to account for changes in carbons stocks resulting from afforestation,
reforestation and afforestation (B Article 3.3) [3] and voluntary to account for emissions from forest management,
cropland management, grazing land management and revegetation (B. Article 3.4).

The rules governing the treatment of land use, land-use change and forestry for the second commitment period are
currently being renegotiated as part of the Bali Action Plan under the Ad-Hoc Working Group on Further
Commitments for Annex 1 Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) [4] .
The most recent options for rule changes under consideration are summarized in a "Non-Paper" the co-chairs of the
contact group on LULUCF (as of June 12)[5] .
Land use, land-use change and forestry 105

Land use and biodiversity

The extent, and type of land use directly affects wildlife
habitat and thereby impacts local and global biodiversity.
Human alteration of landscapes from natural vegetation
(e.g. wilderness) to any other use typically results in
habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation, all of which
can have devastating effects on biodiversity. Land
conversion is the single greatest cause of extinction of
terrestrial species[6] . An example of land conversion
being a chief cause of the critically endangered status of a Per capita greenhouse gas emissions by country not including
land-use change
carnivore is the reduction in habitat for the African Wild
Dog, Lycaon pictus.)[7]

Of particular concern is deforestation, where logging or burning are followed by the conversion of the land to
agriculture or other land uses. Even if some forests are left standing, the resulting fragmented landscape typically
fails to support many species that previously existed there.

[1] Land use, land-use change, and forestry (LULUCF) (http:/ / unfccc. int/ essential_background/ glossary/ items/ 3666. php#L), Glossary of
climate change acronyms, UNFCCC website. Retrieved 2009-01-11.
[2] "Vital Climate Graphics | UNEP/GRID-Arendal - Publications - Vital Climate Graphics" (http:/ / www. grida. no/ climate/ vital/ 10. htm). . Retrieved 2010-04-29.
[3] "Microsoft Word - kpcmp8a3.doc" (http:/ / unfccc. int/ resource/ docs/ 2005/ cmp1/ eng/ 08a03. pdf) (PDF). . Retrieved 2010-04-29.
[4] AWG-KP begins final year of work (http:/ / unfccc. int/ kyoto_protocol/ items/ 4795. php), UNFCCC website. Retrieved 2009-10-11.
[5] A text on other issues outlined in document FCCC/KP/AWG/2008/8 (http:/ / unfccc. int/ resource/ docs/ 2009/ awg8/ eng/ 08. pdf), UNFCCC
website. Retrieved 2009-10-11.
[6] Bierregaard, Richard; Claude Gascon, Thomas E. Lovejoy, and Rita Mesquita (eds.) (2001). Lessons from Amazonia: The Ecology and
Conservation of a Fragmented Forest. ISBN 0300084838.
[7] C. Michael Hogan. 2009. Painted Hunting Dog: Lycaon pictus,, ed. N. Stromberg (http:/ / globaltwitcher. auderis. se/
artspec_information. asp?thingid=35993)

External links
• Good Practice Guidance for Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (
• IPCC Special Report on Land Use, Land-Use Change, and Forestry (
Radiative forcing 106

Radiative forcing
In climate science, radiative forcing is loosely defined as the change in net irradiance at atmospheric boundaries
between different layers of the atmosphere, namely the troposphere and the stratosphere (the tropopause). Net
irradiance is the difference between the incoming radiation energy and the outgoing radiation energy in a given
climate system and is measured in Watts per square meter. The change is computed based on "unperturbed" values,
defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as the measured difference relative to a base
period. For radiative forcings for the industrial era, it is customary to take the year 1750 as the starting point. A
positive forcing (more incoming energy) tends to warm the system, while a negative forcing (more outgoing energy)
tends to cool it. Possible sources of radiative forcing are changes in insolation (incident solar radiation), or the
effects of variations in the amount of radiatively active gases and aerosols present. Because the IPCC regularly
assesses the radiative forcing, it also has a more specific technical definition - see "IPCC usage" section.

Radiation balance
The vast majority of the energy which affects Earth's weather comes from the Sun. The planet and its atmosphere
absorb and reflect some of the energy, while long-wave energy is radiated back into space. The balance between
absorbed and radiated energy determines the average temperature. The planet is warmer than it would be in the
absence of the atmosphere: see greenhouse effect.
The radiation balance can be altered by factors such as intensity of solar energy, reflection by clouds or gases,
absorption by various gases or surfaces, and emission of heat by various materials. Any such alteration is a radiative
forcing, and causes a new balance to be reached. In the real world this happens continuously as sunlight hits the
surface, clouds and aerosols form, the concentrations of atmospheric gases vary, and seasons alter the ground cover.

IPCC usage
The term “radiative forcing” has been used in the IPCC
Assessments with a specific technical meaning, to
denote an externally imposed perturbation in the
radiative energy budget of Earth’s climate system,
which may lead to changes in climate parameters.[1]
The exact definition used is:

The radiative forcing of the surface-troposphere

system due to the perturbation in or the
introduction of an agent (say, a change in
greenhouse gas concentrations) is the change in
net (down minus up) irradiance (solar plus
long-wave; in Wm-2) at the tropopause AFTER
allowing for stratospheric temperatures to 2005 radiative forcings as estimated by the IPCC.
readjust to radiative equilibrium, but with surface
and tropospheric temperatures and state held fixed at the unperturbed values.[2]

In a subsequent report,[3] the IPCC defines it as:

"Radiative forcing is a measure of the influence a factor has in altering the balance of incoming and
outgoing energy in the Earth-atmosphere system and is an index of the importance of the factor as a
potential climate change mechanism. In this report radiative forcing values are for changes relative to
preindustrial conditions defined at 1750 and are expressed in watts per square meter (W/m2)."
Radiative forcing 107

In simple terms, radiative forcing is "...the rate of energy change per unit area of the globe as measured at the top of
the atmosphere."[4] In the context of climate change, the term "forcing" is restricted to changes in the radiation
balance of the surface-troposphere system imposed by external factors, with no changes in stratospheric dynamics,
no surface and tropospheric feedbacks in operation (i.e., no secondary effects induced because of changes in
tropospheric motions or its thermodynamic state), and no dynamically induced changes in the amount and
distribution of atmospheric water (vapour, liquid, and solid forms).
Radiative forcing can be used to estimate a subsequent change in equilibrium surface temperature (ΔTs) arising from
that radiative forcing via the equation:

where λ is the climate sensitivity, usually with units in K/(W/m2), and ΔF is the radiative forcing.[5] A typical value
of λ is 0.8 K/(W/m2), which gives a warming of 3K for doubling of CO2.

Example calculations
Radiative forcing (often measured in watts per square
meter) can be estimated in different ways for different
components. For the case of a change in solar
irradiance, the radiative forcing is the change in the
solar constant divided by 4 and multiplied by 0.7 to
take into account the geometry of the sphere and the
amount of reflected sunlight. For a greenhouse gas,
such as carbon dioxide, radiative transfer codes that
examine each spectral line for atmospheric conditions
can be used to calculate the change ΔF as a function of
changing concentration. These calculations can often be Radiative forcing for doubling CO2, as calculated by radiative
simplified into an algebraic formulation that is specific transfer code Modtran. Red lines are Planck curves.
to that gas.

For instance, the simplified first-order approximation

expression for carbon dioxide is:

Radiative forcing for eight times increase of CH4, as calculated by

radiative transfer code Modtran.

where C is the CO2 concentration in parts per million by volume and C0 is the reference concentration.[6] The
relationship between carbon dioxide and radiative forcing is logarithmic so that increased concentrations have a
progressively smaller warming effect.
Formulas for other greenhouse gases such as methane, N2O or CFCs are given in the IPCC reports.[7]
Radiative forcing 108

Related measures
Radiative forcing is intended as a useful way to compare different causes of perturbations in a climate system. Other
possible tools can be constructed for the same purpose: for example Shine et al.[8] say "...recent experiments indicate
that for changes in absorbing aerosols and ozone, the predictive ability of radiative forcing is much worse... we
propose an alternative, the 'adjusted troposphere and stratosphere forcing'. We present GCM calculations showing
that it is a significantly more reliable predictor of this GCM's surface temperature change than radiative forcing. It is
a candidate to supplement radiative forcing as a metric for comparing different mechanisms...". In this quote, GCM
stands for "global circulation model", and the word "predictive" does not refer to the ability of GCMs to forecast
climate change. Instead, it refers to the ability of the alternative tool proposed by the authors to help explain the
system response.

[1] http:/ / www. grida. no/ climate/ ipcc_tar/ wg1/ 212. htm
[2] http:/ / www. grida. no/ climate/ ipcc_tar/ wg1/ 214. htm#611
[3] http:/ / www. ipcc. ch/ pdf/ assessment-report/ ar4/ syr/ ar4_syr. pdf
[4] Rockstrom, Johan; Steffen, Will; Noone, Kevin; Persson, Asa; Chapin, F. Stuart; Lambin, Eric F.; et al., TM; Scheffer, M et al. (2009). "A
safe operating space for humanity". Nature 461 (7263): 472–475. doi:10.1038/461472a. PMID 19779433.
[5] http:/ / www. grida. no/ publications/ other/ ipcc_tar/ ?src=/ climate/ ipcc_tar/ wg1/ 222. htm
[6] Myhre et al., New estimates of radiative forcing due to well mixed greenhouse gases (http:/ / www. agu. org/ pubs/ crossref/ 1998/
98GL01908. shtml), Geophysical Research Letters, Vol 25, No. 14, pp 2715–2718, 1998
[7] http:/ / www. grida. no/ climate/ ipcc_tar/ wg1/ 222. htm
[8] Shine et al., An alternative to radiative forcing for estimating the relative importance of climate change mechanisms (http:/ / www. agu. org/
pubs/ crossref/ 2003/ 2003GL018141. shtml), Geophysical Research Letters, Vol 30, No. 20, 2047, doi:10.1029/2003GL018141, 2003

• IPCC glossary

External links
• CO2: The Thermostat that Controls Earth's Temperature (
) by NASA, Goddard Institute for Space Studies, October, 2010, Forcing vs. Feedbacks
• Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment Report (2007), Chapter 2, “Changes in
Atmospheric Constituents and Radiative Forcing,” (
ar4-wg1-chapter2.pdf) pp. 133–134 (PDF, 8.6 MB, 106 pp.).
• NOAA/ESRL Global Monitoring Division (no date), The NOAA Annual Greenhouse Gas Index (http://www. Calculations of the radiative forcing of greenhouse gases.
• U.S. EPA (2009), Climate Change – Science (
Explanation of climate change topics including radiative forcing.
• United States National Research Council (2005), Radiative Forcing of Climate Change: Expanding the Concept
and Addressing Uncertainties (, Board on Atmospheric
Sciences and Climate
• A layman's guide to radiative forcing, CO2e, global warming potential etc (
Urban heat island 109

Urban heat island

An urban heat island (UHI) is a
metropolitan area which is significantly
warmer than its surrounding rural areas. The
phenomenon was first investigated and
described by Luke Howard in the 1810s,
although he was not the one to name the
phenomenon.[1] The temperature difference
usually is larger at night than during the day,
and is most apparent when winds are weak.
Seasonally, UHI is seen during both summer
and winter. The main cause of the urban
heat island is modification of the land
surface by urban development which uses
materials which effectively retain heat.
Waste heat generated by energy usage is a Tokyo, an example of an urban heat island. Normal temperatures of Tokyo go up
secondary contributor. As population more than those of the surrounding area.

centers grow they tend to modify a greater

and greater area of land and have a corresponding increase in average temperature. The lesser-used term heat island
refers to any area, populated or not, which is consistently hotter than the surrounding area.[2]

Monthly rainfall is greater downwind of cities, partially due to the UHI. Increases in heat within urban centers
increases the length of growing seasons, and decreases the occurrence of weak tornadoes. Increases in the death rate
during heat waves has been shown to increase by latitude due to the urban heat island effect. The UHI decreases air
quality by increasing the production of pollutants such as ozone, and decreases water quality as warmer waters flow
into area streams, which stresses their ecosystems.
Not all cities have a distinct urban heat island. Mitigation of the urban heat island effect can be accomplished
through the use of green roofs and the use of lighter-colored surfaces in urban areas, which reflect more sunlight and
absorb less heat. Despite concerns raised about its possible contribution to global warming, comparisons between
urban and rural areas show that the urban heat island effects have little influence on global mean temperature
trends.[3] Recent qualitative speculations indicate that urban thermal plumes may contribute to variation in wind
patterns that may influence the melting of arctic ice packs and thereby the cycle of ocean current.[4]
Urban heat island 110

There are several causes of an urban heat island (UHI). The principal
reason for the nighttime warming is that buildings block surface heat
from radiating into the relatively cold night sky. Two other reasons are
changes in the thermal properties of surface materials and lack of
evapotranspiration (for example through lack of vegetation) in urban
areas. Materials commonly used in urban areas for pavement and roofs,
such as concrete and asphalt, have significantly different thermal bulk
properties (including heat capacity and thermal conductivity) and
surface radiative properties (albedo and emissivity) than the
surrounding rural areas. This causes a change in the energy balance of
the urban area, often leading to higher temperatures than surrounding
rural areas.[5]

Other causes of a UHI are due to geometric effects. The tall buildings
within many urban areas provide multiple surfaces for the reflection
and absorption of sunlight, increasing the efficiency with which urban
areas are heated. This is called the "urban canyon effect". Another
effect of buildings is the blocking of wind, which also inhibits cooling
by convection. Waste heat from automobiles, air conditioning,
industry, and other sources also contributes to the UHI. High levels of
pollution in urban areas can also increase the UHI, as many forms of
pollution change the radiative properties of the atmosphere.[5]

Some cities exhibit a heat island effect, largest at night. Seasonally, Thermal (top) and vegetation (bottom) locations
UHI shows up both in summer and winter.[6] [7] The typical around New York City via infrared satellite
temperature difference is several degrees between the center of the city imagery. A comparison of the images shows that
where vegetation is dense, temperatures are
and surrounding fields. The difference in temperature between an inner
city and its surrounding suburbs is frequently mentioned in weather
reports, as in "68 °F (20 °C) downtown, 64 °F (18 °C) in the suburbs".
Black surfaces absorb significantly more electromagnetic radiation, and causes the surfaces of asphalt roads and
highways to heat.[8]

Diurnal behavior
The IPCC stated that "it is well-known that compared to non-urban areas urban heat islands raise night-time
temperatures more than daytime temperatures."[9] For example, Barcelona, Spain is 0.2 °C (0.4 °F) cooler for daily
maxima and 2.9 °C (5.2 °F) warmer for minima than a nearby rural station.[10] A description of the very first report
of the UHI by Luke Howard in the late 1810s said that the urban center of London was warmer at night than the
surrounding countryside by 3.7 °F (2.1 °C).[11] Though the warmer air temperature within the UHI is generally most
apparent at night, urban heat islands exhibit significant and somewhat paradoxical diurnal behavior. The air
temperature difference between the UHI and the surrounding environment is large at night and small during the day.
The opposite is true for skin temperatures of the urban landscape within the UHI.[12]
Throughout the daytime, particularly when the skies are free of clouds, urban surfaces are warmed by the absorption
of solar radiation. Surfaces in the urban areas tend to warm faster than those of the surrounding rural areas. By virtue
of their high heat capacities, urban surfaces act as a giant reservoir of heat energy. For example, concrete can hold
roughly 2,000 times as much heat as an equivalent volume of air. As a result, the large daytime surface temperature
within the UHI is easily seen via thermal remote sensing.[13] As is often the case with daytime heating, this warming
Urban heat island 111

also has the effect of generating convective winds within the urban boundary layer. It is theorized that, due to the
atmospheric mixing that results, the air temperature perturbation within the UHI is generally minimal or nonexistent
during the day, though the surface temperatures can reach extremely high levels.[14]
At night, the situation reverses. The absence of solar heating causes the atmospheric convection to decrease, and the
urban boundary layer begins to stabilize. If enough stabilization occurs, an inversion layer is formed. This traps
urban air near the surface, and keeping surface air warm from the still-warm urban surfaces, forming the nighttime
warmer air temperatures within the UHI. Other than the heat retention properties of urban areas, the nighttime
maximum in urban canyons could also be due to the blocking of "sky view" during cooling: surfaces lose heat at
night principally by radiation to the comparatively cool sky, and this is blocked by the buildings in an urban area.
Radiative cooling is more dominant when wind speed is low and the sky is cloudless, and indeed the UHI is found to
be largest at night in these conditions.[15]

Other impacts on weather and climate

Aside from the effect on temperature, UHIs can produce secondary effects on local meteorology, including the
altering of local wind patterns, the development of clouds and fog, the humidity, and the rates of precipitation.[16]
The extra heat provided by the UHI leads to greater upward motion, which can induce additional shower and
thunderstorm activity. In addition, the UHI creates during the day a local low pressure area where relatively moist air
from its rural surroundings converges, possibly leading to more favorable conditions for cloud formation.[17] Rainfall
rates downwind of cities are increased between 48% and 116%. Partly as a result of this warming, monthly rainfall is
about 28% greater between 20 miles (32 km) to 40 miles (64 km) downwind of cities, compared with upwind.[18]
Some cities show a total precipitation increase of 51%.[19]
Research has been done in a few areas suggesting that metropolitan areas are less susceptible to weak tornadoes due
to the turbulent mixing caused by the warmth of the urban heat island.[20] Using satellite images, researchers
discovered that city climates have a noticeable influence on plant growing seasons up to 10 kilometers (6 mi) away
from a city's edges. Growing seasons in 70 cities in eastern North America were about 15 days longer in urban areas
compared to rural areas outside of a city's influence.[21] [22]

Health effects
UHIs have the potential to directly influence the health and welfare of
urban residents. Within the United States alone, an average of 1,000
people die each year due to extreme heat.[23] As UHIs are
characterized by increased temperature, they can potentially increase
the magnitude and duration of heat waves within cities. Research has
found that the mortality rate during a heat wave increases
exponentially with the maximum temperature,[24] an effect that is
exacerbated by the UHI. The nighttime effect of UHIs can be
particularly harmful during a heat wave, as it deprives urban residents Image of Atlanta, Georgia, showing temperature
of the cool relief found in rural areas during the night.[25] distribution, with blue showing cool
temperatures, red warm, and hot areas appear
Research in the United States suggests that the relationship between white.
extreme temperature and mortality varies by location. Heat is more
likely to increase the risk of mortality in cities at mid-latitudes and high latitudes with significant annual temperature
variation. For example, when Chicago and New York experience unusually hot summertime temperatures, elevated
levels of illness and death are predicted. In contrast, parts of the country that are mild to hot year-round have a lower
public health risk from excessive heat. Research shows that residents of southern cities, such as Miami, tend to be
acclimated to hot weather conditions and therefore less vulnerable to heat related deaths.[26]
Urban heat island 112

Increased temperatures and sunny days help lead to the formation of low-level ozone from volatile organic
compounds and nitrous oxides which already exist in the air. As urban heat islands lead to increased temperatures
within cities, they contribute to worsened air quality.[27] UHIs also impair water quality. Hot pavement and rooftop
surfaces transfer their excess heat to stormwater, which then drains into storm sewers and raises water temperatures
as it is released into streams, rivers, ponds, and lakes. Rapid temperature changes can be stressful to aquatic

Impact on nearby water bodies

Runoff from rainfall can lead to heating via conduction from the surface which the water is flowing over. In August
2001, rains over Cedar Rapids, Iowa led to a 10.5C (18.9F) rise in the nearby stream within one hour, which led to a
fish kill. Since the temperature of the rain was comparatively cool, it could be attributed to the hot pavement of the
city. Similar events have been documented across the American Midwest, as well as Oregon and California.[29]

Impact on energy usage

Another consequence of urban heat islands is the
increased energy required for air conditioning and
refrigeration in cities that are in comparatively hot
climates. The Heat Island Group estimates that the heat
island effect costs Los Angeles about US$100 million
per year in energy.[30] Conversely, those that are in
cold climates such as Moscow, Russia would have less
demand for heating. However, through the
implementation of heat island reduction strategies, Images of Salt Lake City, Utah, show positive correlation between
significant annual net energy savings have been white reflective roofs and cooler temperatures. Image A depicts an
aerial view of Salt Lake City, Utah, site of 865000-square-foot
calculated for northern locations such as Chicago, Salt
(80400 m2) white reflective roof. Image B is a thermal infrared
Lake City, and Toronto.[31] image of same area, showing hot (red and yellow) and cool (green
and blue) spots. The reflective vinyl roof, not absorbing solar
radiation, is shown in blue surrounded by other hot spots.

The temperature difference between urban areas and the surrounding
suburban or rural areas can be as much as 10 degrees. Nearly 40
percent of that increase is due to the prevalence of dark roofs, with the
balance coming from dark pavement and the declining presence of
vegetation. The heat island effect can be counteracted slightly by using
white or reflective materials to build houses, roofs, pavements, and
roads, thus increasing the overall albedo of the city. Relative to
remedying the other sources of the problem, replacing dark roofing
requires the least amount of investment for the most immediate return.
Green roof of City Hall in Chicago, Illinois.
A cool roof made from a reflective material such as vinyl can reflect
three-quarters of the sun’s rays – usually far more – and emit 70 or
more percent of the solar radiation absorbed by the building envelope. Asphalt built-up roofs (BUR), by comparison,
reflect between 6 percent and 26 percent of solar radiation.[32]
Urban heat island 113

Using light-colored concrete has proven effective in reflecting up to 50% more light than asphalt and reducing
ambient temperature.[33] A low albedo value, characteristic of black asphalt, absorbs a large percentage of solar heat
and contributes to the warming of cities. By paving with light colored concrete, in addition to replacing asphalt with
light-colored concrete, communities can lower their average temperature.[34] This is a long established practice in
many countries.
A second option is to increase the amount of well-watered vegetation. These two options can be combined with the
implementation of green roofs. Green roofs are excellent insulators during the warm weather months and the plants
cool the surrounding environment. Air quality is improved as the plants absorb and convert carbon dioxide to
oxygen.[35] The city of New York determined that the cooling potential per area was highest for street trees,
followed by living roofs, light covered surface, and open space planting. From the standpoint of cost effectiveness,
light surfaces, light roofs, and curbside planting have lower costs per temperature reduction.[36]
A hypothetical "cool communities" program in Los Angeles has projected that urban temperatures could be reduced
by approximately 3 °C (5 °F) after planting ten million trees, reroofing five million homes, and painting one-quarter
of the roads at an estimated cost of US$1 billion, giving estimated annual benefits of US$170 million from reduced
air-conditioning costs and US$360 million in smog related health savings.[37]

Green building programs that encourage reduction in the effect

Voluntary green building programs have been promoting the mitigation of the heat island effect for years.[38] For
example, one of the ways for a site to earn points under the US Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in
Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System is to take action that reduces heat islands,
minimizing impacts on microclimates and human and wildlife habitats. Credits associated with reflective roofing or
planted roofs can help a building achieve LEED certification. Buildings also receive credits by providing shade.[39]
Similarly, The Green Building Initiative (GBI)’s Green Globes program awards points to sites that take measures to
decrease a building’s energy consumption and reduce the heat island effect. As many as 10 points may be awarded to
sites with roof coverage from vegetation, highly reflective materials, or a combination of the two.[40]

Global warming
Because some parts of some cities may be hotter than their
surroundings, concerns have been raised that the effects of urban
sprawl might be misinterpreted as an increase in global temperature.
While the "heat island" warming is an important local effect, there is
no evidence that it biases trends in historical temperature record. For
example, urban and rural trends are very similar.[9]

The Third Assessment Report from the IPCC says:

However, over the Northern Hemisphere land areas where
urban heat islands are most apparent, both the trends of A depiction of the varying degree of the urban
heat island effect as a function of land use. Gill et
lower-tropospheric temperature and surface air temperature [41]
al. 2007 found that an additional 10% green
show no significant differences. In fact, the lower-tropospheric space can mitigate UHI by up to 4 °C (7 °F).
temperatures warm at a slightly greater rate over North America
(about 0.28°C/decade using satellite data) than do the surface temperatures (0.27°C/decade), although again
the difference is not statistically significant.[9]

Ground temperature measurements, like most weather observations, are logged by location. Their siting predates the
massive sprawl, roadbuilding programs, and high- and medium-rise expansions which contribute to the UHI. More
Urban heat island 114

importantly, station logs allow sites in question to be filtered easily from data sets. Doing so, the presence of heat
islands is visible, but overall trends change in magnitude, not direction. The effects of the urban heat island may be
overstated. One study stated, "Contrary to generally accepted wisdom, no statistically significant impact of
urbanization could be found in annual temperatures." This was done by using satellite-based night-light detection of
urban areas, and more thorough homogenisation of the time series (with corrections, for example, for the tendency of
surrounding rural stations to be slightly higher in elevation, and thus cooler, than urban areas). If its conclusion is
accepted, then it is necessary to "unravel the mystery of how a global temperature time series created partly from
urban in situ stations could show no contamination from urban warming." The main conclusion is that microscale
and local-scale impacts dominate the mesoscale impact of the urban heat island. Many sections of towns may be
warmer than rural sites, but surface weather observations are likely to be made in park "cool islands."[42]
Not all cities show a warming relative to their rural surroundings. After trends were adjusted in urban weather
stations around the world to match rural stations in their regions, in an effort to homogenise the temperature record,
in 42 percent of cases, cities were getting cooler relative to their surroundings rather than warmer. One reason is that
urban areas are heterogeneous, and weather stations are often sited in "cool islands" – parks, for example – within
urban areas.[43]
Studies in 2004 and 2006 attempted to test the urban heat island theory, by comparing temperature readings taken on
calm nights with those taken on windy nights.[44] [45] If the urban heat island theory is correct then instruments
should have recorded a bigger temperature rise for calm nights than for windy ones, because wind blows excess heat
away from cities and away from the measuring instruments. There was no difference between the calm and windy
nights, and one study said that we show that, globally, temperatures over land have risen as much on windy nights as
on calm nights, indicating that the observed overall warming is not a consequence of urban development.[44] [46]
A view often held by skeptics of global warming is that much of the temperature increase seen in land based
thermometers could be due to an increase in urbanization and the siting of measurement stations in urban areas.[47]
For example, Ross McKitrick and Patrick J. Michaels conducted a statistical study of surface-temperature data
regressed against socioeconomic indicators, and concluded that about half of the observed warming trend (for
1979–2002) could be accounted for by the residual UHI effects in the corrected temperature data set they
studied—which had already been processed to remove the (modeled) UHI contribution.[48] [49] Critics of this paper,
including Gavin A. Schmidt,[50] have said the results can be explained away as an artifact of spatial autocorrelation.
Mckittrick and Nicolas Nierenberg have rebutted Schmidt's critique, and found that "the evidence for contamination
of climatic data is robust across numerous data sets." [51]
Climate Change 2007, the Fourth Assessment Report from the IPCC states the following.
Studies that have looked at hemispheric and global scales conclude that any urban-related trend is an order of
magnitude smaller than decadal and longer time-scale trends evident in the series (e.g., Jones et al., 1990;
Peterson et al., 1999). This result could partly be attributed to the omission from the gridded data set of a small
number of sites (<1%) with clear urban-related warming trends. In a worldwide set of about 270 stations,
Parker (2004, 2006) noted that warming trends in night minimum temperatures over the period 1950 to 2000
were not enhanced on calm nights, which would be the time most likely to be affected by urban warming.
Thus, the global land warming trend discussed is very unlikely to be influenced significantly by increasing
urbanisation (Parker, 2006). ... Accordingly, this assessment adds the same level of urban warming uncertainty
as in the TAR: 0.006°C per decade since 1900 for land, and 0.002°C per decade since 1900 for blended land
with ocean, as ocean UHI is zero.[52]
Urban heat island 115

Ocean temperatures
Climate reporting includes "global average surface temperature," which is combined from the land surface
temperature and ocean surface temperature. As the Fourth Assessment hints, the oceans are immune to urban
measurement effects. Oceanic data is in hand from a wide variety of different data collection methods, taken by both
civil and national defense groups, and academic and commercial groups, as well as multiple subsurface readings:
• Fixed and drifting weather buoys
• Weather ships and ships' logs [53]
• Several sinker and float types
• Ocean acoustic tomography
As water covers approximately 70% of the surface of the Earth, has a higher thermal mass, and can mix, any possible
errors due to urbanization (itself a fraction of the land area) will be averaged down to a fraction of their original

Three-dimensional sampling
In addition, lower-, middle-, upper-, and ultrahigh-atmosphere datasets can be consulted. In addition to distance,
winds and mixing, as mentioned above, average down any effects of urban heating on an instrument. Many weather
balloons are launched daily, around the world; balloons often reach the stratosphere, and depending on launch site
may also overfly oceans. Dedicated weather planes exist; AIREP and AMDAR data from airliner programs (both
dedicated, and incidental) also records the stratosphere, and includes transoceanic routes. Satellites observe over both
land and water, recording temperatures at altitude through infrared and microwave radiometry, and now
refractometry. In exceptional situations dropsondes may be used to profile storms in three dimensions. Lower-quality
data can be obtained with rocketsondes, temperature LIDARs, measurement of orbital decay on suitable satellites,
and other methods.

Most phenologies are not reliant on instrumentation, and are largely immune to calibration effects. While they are
subject to observer and sampling effects, and have far coarser resolutions, they complement instrument data by
acting as independent checks. Phenologies also include shifts in the ranges of fish, and high-altitude observations.

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pg=PA686& lpg=PA686& dq=satellite+ temperature+ urban+ heat+ island+ book& source=bl& ots=hEWBhB9LVb&
sig=_UwQfiQQgzI9PjWJ9fJwYY_HEp8& hl=en& ei=f8kwTaDhLsSugQfJ4pSgCw& sa=X& oi=book_result& ct=result& resnum=4&
sqi=2& ved=0CCsQ6AEwAw#v=onepage& q=satellite temperature urban heat island book& f=false). Macmillan. p. 686.
ISBN 9781429201247. . Retrieved 2011-01-14.
[30] Sheng-chieh Chang (2000-06-23). "Energy Use" (http:/ / eetd. lbl. gov/ HeatIsland/ EnergyUse/ ). Environmental Energies Technology
Division. . Retrieved 2009-06-18.
[31] "Aging and Weathering of Cool Roofing Membranes" (http:/ / www. vinylroofs. org/ downloads/ library/ aging_weathering. pdf). Cool
Roofing Symposium. 2005-08-23. . Retrieved 2010-08-16.
[32] "Comprehensive Cool Roof Guide from the Vinyl Roofing Division of the Chemical Fabrics and Film Association" (http:/ / vinylroofs. org/
cool-roofs/ cool-roofs-explained. html). .
[33] "Cool Pavement Report" (http:/ / www. epa. gov/ heatisland/ resources/ pdf/ CoolPavementReport_Former Guide_complete. pdf) (PDF).
Environmental Protection Agency. June 2005. p. 14. . Retrieved 2009-02-06.
[34] Al Gore; A. Steffen (2008). World Changing: A User's Guide for the 21st Century. New York: Abrams. pp. 258.
[35] "Green (Planted) Roofs" (http:/ / vinylroofs. org/ cool-roofs/ green-planted-roofs. html). . Retrieved 2010-08-07.
[36] New York City Regional Heat Island Initiative (October 2006). "Mitigating New York City's Heat Island With Urban Forestry, Living
Roofs, and Light Surfaces" (http:/ / www. nyserda. org/ programs/ environment/ emep/ project/ 6681_25/ 06-06 Complete report-web. pdf).
Urban heat island 117

New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. p. ii. . Retrieved 2009-06-18.
[37] Arthur Rosenfeld; Joseph Romm; Hashem Akbari; Alana Lloyd (February/March 1997). "Painting the Town White -- and Green" (http:/ /
eetd. lbl. gov/ HeatIsland/ PUBS/ PAINTING/ ). MIT Technology Review. . Retrieved 2007-09-29.
[38] "Voluntary Green Building Programs" (http:/ / vinylroofs. org/ cool-roofs/ green-programs. html). . Retrieved 2010-08-17.
[39] "LEED 2009 for New Construction and Major Renovations Rating System" (http:/ / www. usgbc. org/ ShowFile. aspx?DocumentID=5546).
US Green Building Council. November 2008. . Retrieved 2010-08-17.
[40] "Green Globes" (http:/ / vinylroofs. org/ cool-roofs/ green-programs-globes. html). . Retrieved 2010-08-17.
[41] http:/ / www. atypon-link. com/ ALEX/ doi/ abs/ 10. 2148/ benv. 33. 1. 115
[42] T. C. Peterson (2003). "Assessment of Urban Versus Rural In Situ Surface Temperatures in the Contiguous United States: No Difference
Found" (http:/ / www. ncdc. noaa. gov/ oa/ wmo/ ccl/ rural-urban. pdf). Journal of Climate 16: 2941–2959.
doi:10.1175/1520-0442(2003)016<2941:AOUVRI>2.0.CO;2. .
[43] J. Hansen, R. Ruedy, M. Sato, M. Imhoff, W. Lawrence, D. Easterling, T. Peterson, and T. Karl (2001). "A closer look at United States and
global surface temperature change". Journal of Geophysical Research 106: 239–247. Bibcode 2001JGR...10623947H.
[44] D. E. Parker (2004). "Climate: Large-scale warming is not urban". Nature 432 (7015): 290. doi:10.1038/432290a. PMID 15549087.
[45] David E. Parker (2006). "A demonstration that large-scale warming is not urban". Journal of Climate 19: 2882–2895.
[46] Black, Richard (2004-11-18). "Climate change sceptics 'wrong'" (http:/ / news. bbc. co. uk/ 2/ hi/ uk_news/ 4021197. stm). BBC News. .
Retrieved 2007-08-02.
[47] Richard Black (2004-11-18). "Climate change sceptics 'wrong'" (http:/ / news. bbc. co. uk/ 1/ hi/ uk/ 4021197. stm). BBC. . Retrieved
[48] McKitrick, R.R. and P.J. Michaels (2007), Quantifying the influence of anthropogenic surface processes and inhomogeneities on gridded
global climate data, J. Geophys. Res., 112, D24S09, doi:10.1029/2007JD008465. Full text (http:/ / www. uoguelph. ca/ ~rmckitri/ research/
jgr07/ M& M. JGRDec07. pdf)
[49] Non-technical summary of M&M 2007 by McKitrick (http:/ / www. uoguelph. ca/ ~rmckitri/ research/ jgr07/ M& M. JGR07-background.
[50] Gavin A. Schmidt, 2009, "Spurious correlations between recent warming and indices of local economic activity." International Journal of
Climatology, http:/ / dx. doi. org/ 10. 1002/ joc. 1831, full text (http:/ / www3. interscience. wiley. com/ cgi-bin/ fulltext/ 121590177/
[51] McKitrick, Ross R. and Nicolas Nierenberg (2010), "Socioeconomic Patterns in Climate Data." Journal of Economic and Social
Measurement, Volume 35, Number 3-4 / 2010. doi:10.3233/JEM-2010-0336. Full text (http:/ / rossmckitrick. weebly. com/ uploads/ 4/ 8/ 0/ 8/
4808045/ final_jesm_dec2010. formatted. pdf). Also see (http:/ / rossmckitrick. weebly. com/ temperature-data-quality. html) for a
non-technical summary, and comments on the publication delay.
[52] Kevin E. Trenberth, Philip D. Jones, Peter Ambenje, Roxana Bojariu, David Easterling, Albert Klein Tank, David Parker, Fatemeh
Rahimzadeh, James A. Renwick, Matilde Rusticucci, Brian Soden, and Panmao Zhai (2007). "IPCC Fourth Assessment Report - Chapter 3 -
Observations: Surface and Atmospheric Climate Change" (http:/ / www. ipcc. ch/ pdf/ assessment-report/ ar4/ wg1/ ar4-wg1-chapter3. pdf).
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. p. 244. . Retrieved 2009-06-27.
[53] http:/ / www. ncdc. noaa. gov/ oa/ climate/ coads/

Further reading
• P. D. Jones, P.Y. Groisman, M. Coughlan, N. Plummer, W.-C. Wang, T.R. Karl (1990). "Assessment of
urbanization effects in time series of surface air temperature over land". Nature 347: 169–172.
• Helmut E. Landsberg (1981). The Urban Climate. New York: Academic Press. ISBN 0124359604.

External links
• Land-Surface Air Temperature ( - from the IPCC
• Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Heat Island Group (
• NASA Earth Observatory: The Earth's Big Cities, Urban Heat Islands (
• Urban Heat Islands and Climate Change ( -
from the University of Melbourne, Australia
• Reducing Urban Heat Islands: Compendium of Strategies – Green Roofs (
Urban heat island 118

• Research and mitigation strategies on UHI ( - US EPA designated,

National Center of Excellence on SMART Innovations at Arizona State University
• The Surface Temperature Record and the Urban Heat Island (
• Urban Heat Island research group ( - NSF project, Department of
Geography, Indiana State University
• ( - Urban Heat islands in Canada and the world

Albedo (English pronunciation: /ælˈbiːdoʊ/), or reflection coefficient, is the
diffuse reflectivity or reflecting power of a surface. It is defined as the
ratio of reflected radiation from the surface to incident radiation upon
it. Being a dimensionless fraction, it may also be expressed as a
percentage, and is measured on a scale from zero for no reflecting
power of a perfectly black surface, to 1 for perfect reflection of a white

Albedo depends on the frequency of the radiation. When quoted

unqualified, it usually refers to some appropriate average across the
spectrum of visible light. In general, the albedo depends on the
directional distribution of incoming radiation. Exceptions are
Lambertian surfaces, which scatter radiation in all directions according
to a cosine function, so their albedo does not depend on the incident
distribution. In practice, a bidirectional reflectance distribution
function (BRDF) may be required to characterize the scattering
properties of a surface accurately, although the albedo is a very useful Percentage of diffusely reflected sun light in
first approximation. relation to various surface conditions of the Earth

The albedo is an important concept in climatology and astronomy, as

well as in computer graphics and computer vision. The average overall albedo of Earth, its planetary albedo, is 30 to
35%, because of the covering by clouds, but varies widely locally across the surface, depending on the geological
and environmental features.[1]
The term is derived from Latin albedo "whiteness", in turn from albus "white", and was introduced into optics by
Johann Heinrich Lambert in his 1760 work Photometria.

Terrestrial albedo
Albedo 119

Sample albedos
Surface Typical

Fresh asphalt [2]


Worn asphalt [2]


Conifer forest [3] [4]

0.08, 0.09 to 0.15

Deciduous trees 0.15 to 0.18[4]

Bare soil [5]


Green grass [5]


Desert sand [6]


New concrete [5]


Ocean Ice [5]


Fresh snow [5]


Albedos of typical materials in visible light range from up to 0.9 for fresh snow, to about 0.04 for charcoal, one of
the darkest substances. Deeply shadowed cavities can achieve an effective albedo approaching the zero of a black
body. When seen from a distance, the ocean surface has a low albedo, as do most forests, while desert areas have
some of the highest albedos among landforms. Most land areas are in an albedo range of 0.1 to 0.4.[7] The average
albedo of the Earth is about 0.3.[8] This is far higher than for the ocean primarily because of the contribution of
Human activities have changed the albedo (via forest clearance and farming, for example) of various areas around
the globe. However, quantification of this effect on the global scale is difficult.
The classic example of albedo effect is the snow-temperature feedback. If a snow-covered area warms and the snow
melts, the albedo decreases, more sunlight is absorbed, and the temperature tends to increase. The converse is true: if
snow forms, a cooling cycle happens. The intensity of the albedo effect depends on the size of the change in albedo
and the amount of insolation; for this reason it can be potentially very large in the tropics.
Albedo 120

The Earth's surface albedo is regularly estimated via Earth

observation satellite sensors such as NASA's MODIS instruments
onboard the Terra and Aqua satellites. As the total amount of
reflected radiation cannot be directly measured by satellite, a
mathematical model of the BRDF is used to translate a sample set
of satellite reflectance measurements into estimates of
directional-hemispherical reflectance and bi-hemispherical
reflectance. (e. g., .[9] )

The Earth's average surface temperature due to its albedo and the
greenhouse effect is currently about 15°C. For the frozen (more
reflective) planet the average temperature is below -40°C[10] (If
only all continents being completely covered by glaciers - the
mean temperature is about 0°C ). The simulation for (more
absorptive) aquaplanet shows the average temperature close to
2003-2004 mean annual clear sky and total sky albedo 27°C.[12]

White-sky and black-sky albedo

It has been shown that for many applications involving terrestrial albedo, the albedo at a particular solar zenith angle
can reasonably be approximated by the proportionate sum of two terms: the directional-hemispherical reflectance
at that solar zenith angle, , and the bi-hemispherical reflectance, the proportion concerned being defined
as the proportion of diffuse illumination .
Albedo can then be given as:

Directional-hemispherical reflectance is sometimes referred to as black-sky albedo and bi-hemispherical reflectance

as white sky albedo. These terms are important because they allow the albedo to be calculated for any given
illumination conditions from a knowledge of the intrinsic properties of the surface.[13]

Astronomical albedo
The albedos of planets, satellites and asteroids can be used to infer much about their properties. The study of
albedos, their dependence on wavelength, lighting angle ("phase angle"), and variation in time comprises a major
part of the astronomical field of photometry. For small and far objects that cannot be resolved by telescopes, much of
what we know comes from the study of their albedos. For example, the absolute albedo can indicate the surface ice
content of outer solar system objects, the variation of albedo with phase angle gives information about regolith
properties, while unusually high radar albedo is indicative of high metallic content in asteroids.
Enceladus, a moon of Saturn, has one of the highest known albedos of any body in the Solar system, with 99% of
EM radiation reflected. Another notable high albedo body is Eris, with an albedo of 0.86. Many small objects in the
outer solar system[14] and asteroid belt have low albedos down to about 0.05.[15] A typical comet nucleus has an
albedo of 0.04.[16] Such a dark surface is thought to be indicative of a primitive and heavily space weathered surface
containing some organic compounds.
The overall albedo of the Moon is around 0.12, but it is strongly directional and non-Lambertian, displaying also a
strong opposition effect.[17] While such reflectance properties are different from those of any terrestrial terrains, they
are typical of the regolith surfaces of airless solar system bodies.
Albedo 121

Two common albedos that are used in astronomy are the (V-band) geometric albedo (measuring brightness when
illumination comes from directly behind the observer) and the Bond albedo (measuring total proportion of
electromagnetic energy reflected). Their values can differ significantly, which is a common source of confusion.
In detailed studies, the directional reflectance properties of astronomical bodies are often expressed in terms of the
five Hapke parameters which semi-empirically describe the variation of albedo with phase angle, including a
characterization of the opposition effect of regolith surfaces.
The correlation between astronomical (geometric) albedo, absolute magnitude and diameter is:[18]

where is the astronomical albedo, is the diameter in kilometres, and H is the absolute magnitude.

Examples of terrestrial albedo effects

The tropics
Although the albedo-temperature effect is best known in colder regions on Earth, because more snow falls there, it is
actually much stronger in tropical regions which receive consistently more sunlight.

Small scale effects

Albedo works on a smaller scale, too. People who wear dark clothes in the summertime put themselves at a greater
risk of heatstroke than those who wear lighter color clothes.[19]

Because trees tend to have a low albedo, removing forests would tend to increase albedo and thereby could produce
localized climate cooling (ignoring the lost evaporative cooling effect of trees). Cloud feedbacks further complicate
the issue. In seasonally snow-covered zones, winter albedos of treeless areas are 10% to 50% higher than nearby
forested areas because snow does not cover the trees as readily. Deciduous trees have an albedo value of about 0.15
to 0.18 while coniferous trees have a value of about 0.09 to 0.15.[4]
Studies by the Hadley Centre have investigated the relative (generally warming) effect of albedo change and
(cooling) effect of carbon sequestration on planting forests. They found that new forests in tropical and midlatitude
areas tended to cool; new forests in high latitudes (e.g. Siberia) were neutral or perhaps warming.[20]

Snow albedos can be as high as 0.9; this, however, is for the ideal example: fresh deep snow over a featureless
landscape. Over Antarctica they average a little more than 0.8. If a marginally snow-covered area warms, snow tends
to melt, lowering the albedo, and hence leading to more snowmelt (the ice-albedo positive feedback). Cryoconite,
powdery windblown dust containing soot, sometimes reduces albedo on glaciers and ice sheets.[21]

Water reflects light very differently from typical terrestrial materials. The reflectivity of a water surface is calculated
using the Fresnel equations (see graph).
Albedo 122

At the scale of the wavelength of light even wavy water

is always smooth so the light is reflected in a locally
specular manner (not diffusely). The glint of light off
water is a commonplace effect of this. At small angles
of incident light, waviness results in reduced
reflectivity because of the steepness of the
reflectivity-vs.-incident-angle curve and a locally
increased average incident angle.[22]

Although the reflectivity of water is very low at low

and medium angles of incident light, it increases
tremendously at high angles of incident light such as
occur on the illuminated side of the Earth near the
Reflectivity of smooth water at 20 C (refractive index=1.333)
terminator (early morning, late afternoon and near the
poles). However, as mentioned above, waviness causes
an appreciable reduction. Since the light specularly reflected from water does not usually reach the viewer, water is
usually considered to have a very low albedo in spite of its high reflectivity at high angles of incident light.

Note that white caps on waves look white (and have high albedo) because the water is foamed up, so there are many
superimposed bubble surfaces which reflect, adding up their reflectivities. Fresh ‘black’ ice exhibits Fresnel

Cloud albedo is an important factor in the global warming effect. Different types of clouds exhibit different
reflectivity, theoretically ranging in albedo from a minimum of near 0 to a maximum approaching 0.8. "On any given
day, about half of Earth is covered by clouds, which reflect more sunlight than land and water. Clouds keep Earth
cool by reflecting sunlight, but they can also serve as blankets to trap warmth."[23]
Albedo and climate in some areas are affected by artificial clouds, such as those created by the contrails of heavy
commercial airliner traffic.[24] A study following the burning of the Kuwaiti oil fields during Iraqi occupation
showed that temperatures under the burning oil fires were as much as 10oC colder than temperatures several miles
away under clear skies.[25]

Aerosol effects
Aerosols (very fine particles/droplets in the atmosphere) have both direct and indirect effects on the Earth’s radiative
balance. The direct (albedo) effect is generally to cool the planet; the indirect effect (the particles act as cloud
condensation nuclei and thereby change cloud properties) is less certain.[26] As per [27] the effects are:
• Aerosol direct effect. Aerosols directly scatter and absorb radiation. The scattering of radiation causes
atmospheric cooling, whereas absorption can cause atmospheric warming.
• Aerosol indirect effect. Aerosols modify the properties of clouds through a subset of the aerosol population
called cloud condensation nuclei. Increased nuclei concentrations lead to increased cloud droplet number
concentrations, which in turn leads to increased cloud albedo, increased light scattering and radiative cooling
(first indirect effect), but also leads to reduced precipitation efficiency and increased lifetime of the cloud
(second indirect effect).
Albedo 123

Black carbon
Another albedo-related effect on the climate is from black carbon particles. The size of this effect is difficult to
quantify: the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that the global mean radiative forcing for black
carbon aerosols from fossil fuels is +0.2 W m−2, with a range +0.1 to +0.4 W m−2.[28]

Other types of albedo

Single scattering albedo is used to define scattering of electromagnetic waves on small particles. It depends on
properties of the material (refractive index); the size of the particle or particles; and the wavelength of the incoming
Albedo also refers to the white, spongy inner lining of a citrus fruit rind.[29] According to Dr. Renee M. Goodrich,
associate professor of food science and human nutrition at the University of Florida, the albedo is rich in the soluble
fiber pectin and contains vitamin C.

[1] Environmental Encyclopedia, 3rd ed., Thompson Gale, 2003, ISBN 0-7876-5486-8
[2] Pon, Brian (1999-06-30). "Pavement Albedo" (http:/ / eetd. lbl. gov/ HeatIsland/ Pavements/ Albedo/ ). Heat Island Group. . Retrieved
[3] Alan K. Betts, John H. Ball (1997). "Albedo over the boreal forest" (http:/ / www. agu. org/ pubs/ crossref/ 1997/ 96JD03876. shtml). Journal
of Geophysical 102 (D24): 28,901–28,910. Bibcode 1997JGR...10228901B. doi:10.1029/96JD03876. . Retrieved 2007-08-27.
[4] "The Climate System" (http:/ / www. ace. mmu. ac. uk/ Resources/ gcc/ 1-3-3. html). Manchester Metropolitan University. . Retrieved
[5] Tom Markvart, Luis CastaŁżer (2003). Practical Handbook of Photovoltaics: Fundamentals and Applications. Elsevier.
ISBN 1-85617-390-9.
[6] Tetzlaff, G. (1983). Albedo of the Sahara. pp. 60–63.
[7] Albedo - from Eric Weisstein's World of Physics (http:/ / scienceworld. wolfram. com/ physics/ Albedo. html)
[8] Goode, P. R.; et al. (2001). "Earthshine Observations of the Earth’s Reflectance" (http:/ / www. agu. org/ journals/ ABS/ 2001/
2000GL012580. shtml). Geophysical Research Letters 28 (9): 1671–1674. Bibcode 2001GeoRL..28.1671G. doi:10.1029/2000GL012580. .
[9] "MODIS BRDF/Albedo Product: Algorithm Theoretical Basis Document, Version 5.0" (http:/ / modis. gsfc. nasa. gov/ data/ atbd/
atbd_mod09. pdf). . Retrieved 2009-06-02.
[10] "Snowball Earth: Ice thickness on the tropical ocean" (http:/ / www. atmos. washington. edu/ ~sgw/ PAPERS/ 2002_Snowball. pdf). .
Retrieved 2009-09-20.
[11] "Effect of land albedo, CO2, orography, and oceanic heat transport on extreme climates" (http:/ / www. clim-past. net/ 2/ 31/ 2006/
cp-2-31-2006. pdf). . Retrieved 2009-09-20.
[12] "Global climate and ocean circulation on an aquaplanet ocean-atmosphere general circulation model" (http:/ / www. mpimet. mpg. de/
fileadmin/ staff/ smithrobin/ IC_JClim-final. pdf). . Retrieved 2009-09-20.
[13] Roman, M. O.; C.B. Schaaf, P. Lewis, F. Gao, G.P. Anderson, J.L. Privette, A.H. Strahler, C.E. Woodcock, and M. Barnsley (2010).
"Assessing the Coupling between Surface Albedo derived from MODIS and the Fraction of Diffuse Skylight over Spatially-Characterized
Landscapes". Remote Sensing of Environment 114: 738–760. doi:10.1016/j.rse.2009.11.014.
[14] Wm. Robert Johnston (2008-09-17). "TNO/Centaur diameters and albedos" (http:/ / www. johnstonsarchive. net/ astro/ tnodiam. html).
Johnston's Archive. . Retrieved 2008-10-17.
[15] Wm. Robert Johnston (2003-06-28). "Asteroid albedos: graphs of data" (http:/ / www. johnstonsarchive. net/ astro/ astalbedo. html).
Johnston's Archive. . Retrieved 2008-06-16.
[16] Robert Roy Britt (2001-11-29). "Comet Borrelly Puzzle: Darkest Object in the Solar System" (http:/ / www. space. com/ scienceastronomy/
solarsystem/ borrelly_dark_011129. html). . Retrieved 2008-10-26.
[17] Medkeff, Jeff (2002). "Lunar Albedo" (http:/ / web. archive. org/ web/ 20080523151225/ http:/ / jeff. medkeff. com/ astro/ lunar/ obs_tech/
albedo. htm). Archived from the original (http:/ / jeff. medkeff. com/ astro/ lunar/ obs_tech/ albedo. htm) on 23 May 2008. . Retrieved 5 July
[18] Dan Bruton. "Conversion of Absolute Magnitude to Diameter for Minor Planets" (http:/ / www. physics. sfasu. edu/ astro/ asteroids/
sizemagnitude. html). Department of Physics & Astronomy (Stephen F. Austin State University). . Retrieved 2008-10-07.
[19] Health and Safety: Be Cool! (August 1997) (http:/ / www. ranknfile-ue. org/ h& s0897. html)
[20] Betts, R.A. (2000) Offset of the potential carbon sink from boreal forestation by decreases in surface albedo, Nature, Volume 408, Issue
6809, pp. 187-190.
[21] "Changing Greenland - Melt Zone" (http:/ / ngm. nationalgeographic. com/ 2010/ 06/ melt-zone/ jenkins-text/ 3) page 3, of 4, article by
Mark Jenkins in National Geographic June, 2010, accessed July 8, 2010
Albedo 124

[22] (http:/ / vih. freeshell. org/ pp/ 01-ONW-St. Petersburg/ Fresnel. pdf)
[23] Baffled Scientists Say Less Sunlight Reaching Earth | LiveScience (http:/ / www. livescience. com/ environment/ 060124_earth_albedo.
[24] http:/ / facstaff. uww. edu/ travisd/ pdf/ jetcontrailsrecentresearch. pdf
[25] The Kuwait oil fires as seen by Landsat (http:/ / adsabs. harvard. edu/ abs/ 1992JGR. . . . 9714565C)
[26] Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis (http:/ / www. grida. no/ climate/ ipcc_tar/ wg1/ 231. htm#671)
[27] DOMINICK V. SPRACKLEN, BORIS BONN, AND KENNETH S. CARSLAW. 2008. Boreal forests, aerosols and the impacts on clouds
and climate. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A. doi:10.1098/rsta.2008.0201. http:/ / homepages. see. leeds. ac. uk/ ~eardvs/ papers/ spracklen08c. pdf
[28] Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis (http:/ / www. grida. no/ climate/ ipcc_tar/ wg1/ 233. htm)

External links
• - Official Website of Albedo Project (
• Albedo - Encyclopedia of Earth (
• NASA MODIS Terra BRDF/albedo product site (
• NASA MODIS BRDF/albedo product site (
• Surface albedo derived from Meteosat observations (
• A discussion of Lunar albedos (

Bond event
Bond events are North Atlantic climate fluctuations occurring
every ≈1,470 ± 500 years throughout the Holocene. Eight such
events have been identified, primarily from fluctuations in
ice-rafted debris. Bond events may be the interglacial relatives of
the glacial Dansgaard-Oeschger events, with a magnitude of
perhaps 15-20% of the glacial-interglacial temperature change.

The theory of 1,500-year climate cycles in the Holocene was

postulated by Gerard C. Bond of the Lamont-Doherty Earth
Observatory at Columbia University, mainly based on petrologic
tracers of drift ice in the North Atlantic.[1] [2]
The existence of climatic changes, possibly on a quasi-1,500 year cycle, is well established for the last glacial period
from ice cores. Less well established is the continuation of these cycles into the holocene. Bond et al. (1997) argue
for a cyclicity close to 1470 ± 500 years in the North Atlantic region, and that their results imply a variation in
Holocene climate in this region. In their view, many if not most of the Dansgaard-Oeschger events of the last ice age,
conform to a 1,500-year pattern, as do some climate events of later eras, like the Little Ice Age, the 8.2 kiloyear
event, and the start of the Younger Dryas.
The North Atlantic ice-rafting events happen to correlate with most weak events of the Asian monsoon over the past
9,000 years,[3] [4] as well as with most aridification events in the Middle East.[5] Also, there is widespread evidence
that a ≈1,500 yr climate oscillation caused changes in vegetation communities across all of North America.[6]
For reasons that are unclear, the only Holocene Bond event that has a clear temperature signal in the Greenland ice
cores is the 8.2 kyr event.
The hypothesis holds that the 1,500-year cycle displays nonlinear behavior and stochastic resonance; not every
instance of the pattern is a significant climate event, though some rise to major prominence in environmental
history.[7] Causes and determining factors of the cycle are under study; researchers have focused attention on
Bond event 125

variations in solar output, and "reorganizations of atmospheric circulation."[7] Bond events may also be correlated
with the 1800 year lunar tidal cycle. [8]

List of Bond events

Most Bond events do not have a clear climate signal; some correspond to periods of cooling, others are coincident
with aridification in some regions.
• ≈1,400 BP (Bond event 1) — roughly correlates with the Migration Period pessimum (450–900 AD)
• ≈2,800 BP (Bond event 2) — roughly correlates with the Iron Age Cold Epoch (900–300 BC)[9]
• ≈4,200 BP (Bond event 3) — correlates with the 4.2 kiloyear event (correlates also with the collapse of the
Akkadian Empire and the end of the Egyptian Old Kingdom)
• ≈5,900 BP (Bond event 4) — correlates with the 5.9 kiloyear event (correlates with the end of the Pre Pottery
Neolithic B, and the arrival of nomadic pastoralists in the Middle East)
• ≈8,100 BP (Bond event 5) — correlates with the 8.2 kiloyear event
• ≈9,400 BP (Bond event 6) — correlates with the Erdalen event of glacier activity in Norway,[10] as well as with a
cold event in China.[11]
• ≈10,300 BP (Bond event 7) — unnamed event (correlates with the beginnings of grain agriculture in the Middle
• ≈11,100 BP (Bond event 8) — coincides with the transition from the Younger Dryas to the boreal

[1] Bond, G.; et al. (1997). "A Pervasive Millennial-Scale Cycle in North Atlantic Holocene and Glacial Climates" (http:/ / rivernet. ncsu. edu/
courselocker/ PaleoClimate/ Bond et al. , 1997 Millenial Scale Holocene Change. pdf). Science 278 (5341): 1257–1266.
doi:10.1126/science.278.5341.1257. .
[2] Bond, G.; et al. (2001). "Persistent Solar Influence on North Atlantic Climate During the Holocene". Science 294 (5549): 2130–2136.
doi:10.1126/science.1065680. PMID 11739949.
[3] Gupta, Anil K.; Anderson, David M.; Overpeck, Jonathan T. (2003). "Abrupt changes in the Asian southwest monsoon during the Holocene
and their links to the North Atlantic Ocean". Nature 421 (6921): 354–357. doi:10.1038/nature01340. PMID 12540924.
[4] Yongjin Wang; et al. (2005). "The Holocene Asian Monsoon: Links to Solar Changes and North Atlantic Climate". Science 308 (5723):
854–857. doi:10.1126/science.1106296. PMID 15879216.
[5] Parker, Adrian G.; et al. (2006). "A record of Holocene climate change from lake geochemical analyses in southeastern Arabia" (http:/ /
www. gulfnexus. org/ articles/ geo/ 2006a Parker et al. pdf). Quaternary Research 66 (3): 465–476. doi:10.1016/j.yqres.2006.07.001. .
[6] Viau, André E.; et al. (2002). "Widespread evidence of 1,500 yr climate variability in North America during the past 14 000 yr". Geology 30
(5): 455–458. doi:10.1130/0091-7613(2002)030<0455:WEOYCV>2.0.CO;2.
[7] Cox, John D. (2005). Climate Crash: Abrupt Climate Change and What It Means for Our Future. Washington DC: Joseph Henry Press.
pp. 150–155. ISBN 0309093120.
[8] Keeling, Charles; Whorf, TP (2000). "The 1,800-Year Oceanic Tidal Cycle: A Possible Cause of Rapid Climate Change". Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 97 (8): 3814–3819. doi:10.1073/pnas.070047197. JSTOR 122066. PMC 18099.
PMID 10725399.
[9] Swindles, Graeme T.; Plunkett, Gill; Roe, Helen M. (2007). "A delayed climatic response to solar forcing at 2800 cal. BP: multiproxy
evidence from three Irish peatlands". The Holocene 17 (2): 177–182. doi:10.1177/0959683607075830.
[10] Dahl, Svein Olaf; et al. (2002). "Timing, equilibrium-line altitudes and climatic implications of two early-Holocene glacier readvances
during the Erdalen Event at Jostedalsbreen, western Norway". The Holocene 12 (1): 17–25. doi:10.1191/0959683602hl516rp.
[11] Zhou Jing; Wang Sumin; Yang Guishan; Xiao Haifeng (2007). "Younger Dryas Event and Cold Events in Early-Mid Holocene: Record
from the sediment of Erhai Lake" (http:/ / www. climatechange. cn/ qikan/ manage/ wenzhang/ 08. pdf). Advances in Climate Change
Research 3 (Suppl.): 1673–1719. .
Glacial period 126

Glacial period
A glacial period (or alternatively glacial or glaciation) is an interval of time (thousands of years) within an ice age
that is marked by colder temperatures and glacier advances. Interglacials, on the other hand, are periods of warmer
climate within an ice age. The last glacial period ended about 15,000 years ago;[1] The Holocene epoch is the current

Quaternary ice age

Within the Quaternary glaciation (2.58 Ma
to present), there have been a number of
glacials and interglacials.
In the British Isles the Pleistocene extent of
the Quaternary ice age, has been subdivided
into the following stages and superstages.
• Preludhamian
• Ludhamian
• Thurnian
• Antian
• Bramertonian
• Prepastonian
• Pastonian
• Beestonian (glacial) Glacial and interglacial cycles of the late Pleistocene epoch within the Quaternary
• Cromerian glaciation, as represented by atmospheric CO2, measured from ice core samples
going back 650,000 years. The stage names are part of the North American and the
• Anglian (glacial)
European Alpine subdivisions. The correlation between both subdivisions is
• Hoxnian tentative.
• Wolstonian (glacial)
• Ipswichian
• Devensian (glacial)
The Cromerian consists of multiple glacial and interglacial periods. Other stages, the Anglian and Hoxnian, consist
either of single glacial or interglacial periods. This subdivision is valid for the British Isles and hence has a local
significance. Other areas have different subdivisions that partly correlate with the British subdivision.

Last glacial period

The last glacial period was the most recent glacial period within the current ice age, occurring in the Pleistocene
epoch, which began about 70,000 and ended about 15,000 years ago. The glaciations that occurred during this glacial
period covered many areas of the Northern Hemisphere, and have different names, depending on their geographic
distributions: Wisconsin (in North America), Devensian (in the British Isles), Midlandian (in Ireland), Würm (in the
Alps), Weichsel (in northern central Europe) and Llanquihue in Chile. The glacial advance reached its maximum
extent about 18,000 BP. In Europe, the ice sheet reached northern Germany.
Glacial period 127

Next glacial period

Since orbital variations are predictable,[2] if one has a model that relates orbital variations to climate, it is possible to
run such a model forward to "predict" future climate. Two caveats are necessary: that anthropogenic effects (global
warming) are likely to exert a larger influence over the short term; and that the mechanism by which orbital forcing
influences climate is not well understood.
Work by Berger and Loutre suggests that the current warm climate may last another 50,000 years.[3]

[1] J. Severinghaus, E. Brook (1999). "Abrupt Climate Change at the End of the Last Glacial Period Inferred from Trapped Air in Polar Ice"
(http:/ / www. sciencemag. org/ cgi/ content/ short/ 286/ 5441/ 930). Science 286 (5441): 930–4. doi:10.1126/science.286.5441.930.
PMID 10542141. .
[2] F. Varadi, B. Runnegar, M. Ghil (2003). "Successive Refinements in Long-Term Integrations of Planetary Orbits" (http:/ / astrobiology. ucla.
edu/ OTHER/ SSO/ SolarSysInt. pdf). The Astrophysical Journal 592: 620–630. Bibcode 2003ApJ...592..620V. doi:10.1086/375560. .
[3] Berger A, Loutre MF (2002). "Climate: An exceptionally long interglacial ahead?". Science 297 (5585): 1287–8.
doi:10.1126/science.1076120. PMID 12193773.

Global cooling
Global cooling was a conjecture during the 1970s of imminent cooling
of the Earth's surface and atmosphere along with a posited
commencement of glaciation. This hypothesis had mixed support in the
scientific community, but gained temporary popular attention due to a
combination of press reports that did not accurately reflect the
scientific understanding of ice age cycles, and a slight downward trend
of temperatures from the 1940s to the early 1970s. In contrast to the
global cooling conjecture, the current scientific opinion on climate
Mean temperature anomalies during the period
change is that the Earth has not durably cooled, but undergone global
1965 to 1975 with respect to the average
warming throughout the twentieth century.[1] temperatures from 1937 to 1946. This dataset was
not available at the time.

Introduction: general awareness and concern

In the 1970s there was increasing awareness that estimates of global temperatures showed cooling since 1945. Of
those scientific papers considering climate trends over the 21st century, only 10% inclined towards future cooling,
while most papers predicted future warming.[2] The general public had little awareness of carbon dioxide's effects on
climate, but Science News in May 1959 forecast a 25% increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide in the 150 years from
1850 to 2000, with a consequent warming trend.[3] The actual increase in this period was 29%. Paul R. Ehrlich
mentioned climate change from greenhouse gases in 1968.[4] By the time the idea of global cooling reached the
public press in the mid-1970s temperatures had stopped falling, and there was concern in the climatological
community about carbon dioxide's warming effects.[5] In response to such reports, the World Meteorological
Organization issued a warning in June 1976 that a very significant warming of global climate was probable.[6]
Currently there are some concerns about the possible cooling effects of a slowdown or shutdown of thermohaline
circulation, which might be provoked by an increase of fresh water mixing into the North Atlantic due to glacial
melting. The probability of this occurring is generally considered to be very low, and the IPCC notes, "even in
models where the THC weakens, there is still a warming over Europe. For example, in all AOGCM integrations
Global cooling 128

where the radiative forcing is increasing, the sign of the temperature change over north-west Europe is positive."[7]

Physical mechanisms
The cooling period is well reproduced by current (1999 on) global climate models (GCMs) that include the physical
effects of sulphate aerosols, and there is now general agreement that aerosol effects were the dominant cause of the
mid-20th century cooling. However, at the time there were two physical mechanisms that were most frequently
advanced to cause cooling: aerosols and orbital forcing.

Human activity — mostly as a by-product of fossil fuel combustion, partly by land use changes — increases the
number of tiny particles (aerosols) in the atmosphere. These have a direct effect: they effectively increase the
planetary albedo, thus cooling the planet by reducing the solar radiation reaching the surface; and an indirect effect:
they affect the properties of clouds by acting as cloud condensation nuclei.[8] In the early 1970s some speculated that
this cooling effect might dominate over the warming effect of the CO2 release: see discussion of Rasool and
Schneider (1971), below. As a result of observations and a switch to cleaner fuel burning, this no longer seems
likely; current scientific work indicates that global warming is far more likely. Although the temperature drops
foreseen by this mechanism have now been discarded in light of better theory and the observed warming, aerosols
are believed to have contributed a cooling tendency (outweighted by increases in greenhouse gases) and also have
contributed to "Global Dimming."

Orbital forcing
Orbital forcing refers to the slow, cyclical changes in the tilt of Earth's
axis and shape of its orbit. These cycles alter the total amount of
sunlight reaching the earth by a small amount and affect the timing and
intensity of the seasons. This mechanism is believed to be responsible
for the timing of the ice age cycles, and understanding of the
mechanism was increasing rapidly in the mid-1970s.

The seminal paper of Hays, Imbrie and Shackleton Variations in the

Earth's Orbit: Pacemaker of the Ice Ages qualified its predictions with
"forecasts must be qualified in two ways. First, they apply only to the CO2, temperature, and dust concentration
natural component of future climatic trends - and not to anthropogenic measured by Petit et al. from Vostok ice core at
effects such as those due to the burning of fossil fuels. Second, they Antarctica.

describe only the long-term trends, because they are linked to orbital
variations with periods of 20,000 years and longer. Climatic oscillations at higher frequencies are not predicted... the
results indicate that the long-term trend over the next 20,000 years is towards extensive Northern Hemisphere
glaciation and cooler climate".[9]

The idea that ice ages cycles were predictable appears to have become conflated with the idea that another one was
due "soon" - perhaps because much of this study was done by geologists, who are accustomed to dealing with very
long time scales and use "soon" to refer to periods of thousands of years. A strict application of the Milankovitch
theory does not allow the prediction of a "rapid" ice age onset (i.e., less than a century or two) since the fastest
orbital period is about 20,000 years. Some creative ways around this were found, notably one championed by Nigel
Calder under the name of "snowblitz", but these ideas did not gain wide acceptance.
It is common to see it asserted that the length of the current interglacial temperature peak is similar to the length of
the preceding interglacial peak (Sangamon/Eem), and from this conclude that we might be nearing the end of this
warm period. This conclusion is supported by the fact that the lengths of previous interglacials were regular; see
Global cooling 129

appended figure. Petit et al. note that "Interglacials 5.5 and 9.3 are different from the Holocene, but similar to each
other in duration, shape and amplitude."[10] During each of these two events, there is a warm period of 4000 years
followed by a relatively rapid cooling. As an objection, the future orbital variations will not closely resemble those
of the past.

Concern in the mid-twentieth century

At a conference on climate change held in Boulder, Colorado in 1965, evidence supporting Milankovitch cycles
triggered speculation on how the calculated small changes in sunlight might somehow trigger ice ages. In 1966
Cesare Emiliani predicted that "a new glaciation will begin within a few thousand years." In his 1968 book The
Population Bomb, Paul R. Ehrlich wrote "The greenhouse effect is being enhanced now by the greatly increased
level of carbon dioxide... [this] is being countered by low-level clouds generated by contrails, dust, and other
contaminants... At the moment we cannot predict what the overall climatic results will be of our using the
atmosphere as a garbage dump."[4]

1970s awareness

The temperature record as seen in 1975; compare with the next figure.

Instrumental record of global average temperatures.

Concern peaked in the early 1970s, partly because of the cooling trend then apparent (a cooling period began in
1945, and two decades of a cooling trend suggested a trough had been reached after several decades of warming),
and partly because much less was then known about world climate and causes of ice ages. Although there was a
cooling trend then, climate scientists were aware that predictions based on this trend were not possible - because the
trend was poorly studied and not understood (for example see reference[11] ). However in the popular press the
possibility of cooling was reported generally without the caveats present in the scientific reports.
In the 1970s the compilation of records to produce hemispheric, or global, temperature records had just begun.
A history of the discovery of global warming states that: While neither scientists nor the public could be sure in the
1970s whether the world was warming or cooling, people were increasingly inclined to believe that global climate
was on the move, and in no small way.[12]
In 1972 Emiliani warned "Man's activity may either precipitate this new ice age or lead to substantial or even total
melting of the ice caps..."[13] By 1972 a group of glacial-epoch experts at a conference agreed that "the natural end of
our warm epoch is undoubtedly near";[14] but the volume of Quaternary Research reporting on the meeting said that
"the basic conclusion to be drawn from the discussions in this section is that the knowledge necessary for
Global cooling 130

understanding the mechanism of climate change is still lamentably inadequate". Unless there were impacts from
future human activity, they thought that serious cooling "must be expected within the next few millennia or even
centuries"; but many other scientists doubted these conclusions.[15] [16]
In 1972, George Kukla and Robert Matthews, in a Science write-up of a conference, asked when and how the current
integlacial would end; concluding that "Global cooling and related rapid changes of environment, substantially
exceeding the fluctuations experienced by man in historical times, must be expected within the next few millennia or
even centuries."[17]

1970 SCEP report

The 1970 "Study of Critical Environmental Problems"[18] reported the possibility of warming from increased carbon
dioxide, but no concerns about cooling, setting a lower bound on the beginning of interest in "global cooling".

1971 paper on warming and cooling factors

There was a paper by S. Ichtiaque Rasool and Stephen H. Schneider, published in the journal Science in July 1971.
Titled "Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide and Aerosols: Effects of Large Increases on Global Climate," the paper
examined the possible future effects of two types of human environmental emissions:
1. greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide;
2. particulate pollution such as smog, some of which remains suspended in the atmosphere in aerosol form for years.
Greenhouse gases were regarded as likely factors that could promote global warming, while particulate pollution
blocks sunlight and contributes to cooling. In their paper, Rasool and Schneider theorized that aerosols were more
likely to contribute to climate change in the foreseeable future than greenhouse gases, stating that quadrupling
aerosols could decrease the mean surface temperature (of Earth) by as much as 3.5 C. If sustained over a period of
several years, they calculated, such a temperature decrease could be sufficient to trigger an ice age.

1972 and 1974 National Science Board

The National Science Board's Patterns and Perspectives in Environmental Science report of 1972 discussed the
cyclical behavior of climate, and the understanding at the time that the planet was entering a phase of cooling after a
warm period. "Judging from the record of the past interglacial ages, the present time of high temperatures should be
drawing to an end, to be followed by a long period of considerably colder temperatures leading into the next glacial
age some 20,000 years from now."[19] But it also continued; "However, it is possible, or even likely, that human
interference has already altered the environment so much that the climatic pattern of the near future will follow a
different path."[19]
The Board's report of 1974, Science And The Challenges Ahead , continued on this theme. "During the last 20-30
years, world temperature has fallen, irregularly at first but more sharply over the last decade."[20] However
discussion of cyclic glacial periods does not feature in this report. Instead it is the role of man that is central to the
report's analysis. "The cause of the cooling trend is not known with certainty. But there is increasing concern that
man himself may be implicated, not only in the recent cooling trend but also in the warming temperatures over the
last century".[20] The report can not conclude whether carbon dioxide in warming, or agricultural and industrial
pollution in cooling, are factors in the recent climatic changes, noting; "Before such questions as these can be
resolved, major advances must be made in understanding the chemistry and physics of the atmosphere and oceans,
and in measuring and tracing particulates through the system."[21]
Global cooling 131

1975 National Academy of Sciences report

There also was a study by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences about issues that needed more research.[22] This
heightened interest in the fact that climate can change. The 1975 NAS report titled "Understanding Climate Change:
A Program for Action" did not make predictions, stating in fact that "we do not have a good quantitative
understanding of our climate machine and what determines its course. Without the fundamental understanding, it
does not seem possible to predict climate." Its "program for action" consisted simply of a call for further research,
because "it is only through the use of adequately calibrated numerical models that we can hope to acquire the
information necessary for a quantitative assessment of the climatic impacts."
The report further stated:
The climates of the earth have always been changing, and they will doubtless continue to do so in the future.
How large these future changes will be, and where and how rapidly they will occur, we do not know..
This is not consistent with claims like those of Science & Environmental Policy Project (SEPP) that "the NAS
"experts" exhibited ... hysterical fears" in the 1975 report.[23]

1974 Time Magazine article

While these discussions were ongoing in scientific circles, other accounts appeared in the popular media. In their
June 24, 1974 issue, Time presented an article titled Another Ice Age? that noted "the atmosphere has been growing
gradually cooler for the past three decades" but noted that "Some scientists... think that the cooling trend may be only
temporary" [24]

1975 Newsweek article

An April 28, 1975 article in Newsweek magazine was titled [25] "The Cooling World", it pointed to "ominous signs
that the Earth's weather patterns have begun to change" and pointed to "a drop of half a degree [Fahrenheit] in
average ground temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere between 1945 and 1968." The article claimed "The
evidence in support of these predictions [of global cooling] has now begun to accumulate so massively that
meteorologists are hard-pressed to keep up with it." The Newsweek article did not state the cause of cooling; it stated
that "what causes the onset of major and minor ice ages remains a mystery" and cited the NAS conclusion that "not
only are the basic scientific questions largely unanswered, but in many cases we do not yet know enough to pose the
key questions."
The article mentioned the alternative solutions of "melting the Arctic ice cap by covering it with black soot or
diverting Arctic rivers" but conceded these were not feasible. The Newsweek article concluded by criticizing
government leaders: "But the scientists see few signs that government leaders anywhere are even prepared to take the
simple measures of stockpiling food or of introducing the variables of climatic uncertainty into economic projections
of future food supplies...The longer the planners (politicians) delay, the more difficult will they find it to cope with
climatic change once the results become grim reality." The article emphasized sensational and largely unsourced
consequences - "resulting famines could be catastrophic", "drought and desolation," "the most devastating outbreak
of tornadoes ever recorded", "droughts, floods, extended dry spells, long freezes, delayed monsoons," "impossible
for starving peoples to migrate," "the present decline has taken the planet about a sixth of the way toward the Ice
On October 23, 2006, Newsweek issued a correction, over 31 years after the original article, stating that it had been
"so spectacularly wrong about the near-term future" (though editor Jerry Adler claimed that 'the story wasn't "wrong"
in the journalistic sense of "inaccurate."').[26]
Global cooling 132

Other 1970s sources

In the late 1970s there were several popular books on the topic, including The Weather Conspiracy: The Coming of
the New Ice Age.[27]

1979 WMO conference

Later in the decade, at a WMO conference in 1979, F K Hare reported that:
Fig 8 shows [...] 1938 the warmest year. They [temperatures] have since fallen by about 0.4 °C. At the
end there is a suggestion that the fall ceased in about 1964, and may even have reversed.
Figure 9 challenges the view that the fall of temperature has ceased [...] the weight of evidence clearly
favours cooling to the present date [...] The striking point, however, is that interannual variability of
world temperatures is much larger than the trend [...] it is difficult to detect a genuine trend [...]
It is questionable, moreover, whether the trend is truly global. Calculated variations in the 5-year mean
air temperature over the southern hemisphere chiefly with respect to land areas show that temperatures
generally rose between 1943 and 1975. Since the 1960-64 period this rise has been strong [...] the
scattered SH data fail to support a hypothesis of continued global cooling since 1938. [p 65][28]

More recent climate cooling predictions

Concerns about nuclear winter arose in the early 1980s from several reports. Similar speculations have appeared over
effects due to catastrophes such as asteroid impacts and massive volcanic eruptions. A prediction that massive oil
well fires in Kuwait would cause significant effects on climate was quite incorrect.

The idea of a global cooling as the result of global warming was already proposed in the 1990s.[29] In 2003, the
Office of Net Assessment at the United States Department of Defense was commissioned to produce a study on the
likely and potential effects of a modern climate change, especially of a shutdown of thermohaline circulation.[30] The
study, conducted under ONA head Andrew Marshall, modelled its prospective climate change on the 8.2 kiloyear
event, precisely because it was the middle alternative between the Younger Dryas and the Little Ice Age. The study
caused controversy in the media when it was made public in 2004.[31] [32] However, scientists acknowledge that
“abrupt climate change initiated by GIS melting is not a realistic scenario for the 21st century.”.[33]

Present level of knowledge

Currently, the concern that cooler temperatures would continue, and perhaps at a faster rate, has been observed to be
incorrect by the IPCC.[7] More has to be learned about climate, but the growing records have shown that the cooling
concerns of 1975 have not been borne out.
As for the prospects of the end of the current interglacial (again, valid only in the absence of human perturbations): it
isn't true that interglacials have previously only lasted about 10,000 years; and Milankovitch-type calculations
indicate that the present interglacial would probably continue for tens of thousands of years naturally.[34] Other
estimates (Loutre and Berger, based on orbital calculations) put the unperturbed length of the present interglacial at
50,000 years.[35] Berger (EGU 2005 presentation) believes that the present CO2 perturbation will last long enough to
suppress the next glacial cycle entirely.
As the NAS report indicates, scientific knowledge regarding climate change was more uncertain than it is today. At
the time that Rasool and Schneider wrote their 1971 paper, climatologists had not yet recognized the significance of
Global cooling 133

greenhouse gases other than water vapor and carbon dioxide, such as methane, nitrous oxide, and
chlorofluorocarbons.[36] Early in that decade, carbon dioxide was the only widely studied human-influenced
greenhouse gas. The attention drawn to atmospheric gases in the 1970s stimulated many discoveries in future
decades. As the temperature pattern changed, global cooling was of waning interest by 1979.[28]

[1] "Summary for Policymakers" (http:/ / www. ipcc. ch/ pdf/ assessment-report/ ar4/ wg1/ ar4-wg1-spm. pdf) (PDF). Climate Change 2007: The
Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 2007-02-05. . Retrieved 2007-02-02.
[2] Peterson, Thomas & Connolley, William & Fleck, John (September 2008). The Myth of the 1970s Global Cooling Scientific Consensus (http:/
/ scienceblogs. com/ stoat/ Myth-1970-Global-Cooling-BAMS-2008. pdf). American Meteorological Society. doi:10.1175/2008BAMS2370.1.
[3] "Science Past from the issue of May 9, 1959" (http:/ / www. sciencenews. org/ view/ generic/ id/ 43155/ title/
Science_Past_from_the_issue_of_May_9,_1959). Science News: p. 30. May 9, 2009. .
[4] Erlich, Paul. "Paul Erhlich on climate change in 1968" (http:/ / backseatdriving. blogspot. com/ 2005_07_01_backseatdriving_archive.
html#112148592454360291). Backseat driving. . Retrieved November 17, 2005.
[5] Schneider SH (November 1972). "Atmospheric particles and climate: can we evaluate the impact of mans activities?". Quaternary Research 2
(3): 425–35. doi:10.1016/0033-5894(72)90068-3. [ Precis (http:/ / www. wmconnolley. org. uk/ sci/ iceage/ quat_res_1972. html#schneider)
Lay summary].
[6] World's temperature likely to rise; The Times; 22 June 1976; pg 9; col A
[7] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. "Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis" (http:/ / www. grida. no/ climate/ ipcc_tar/ wg1/
357. htm). . Retrieved November 17, 2005.
[8] Rasool, S.I.; Schneider, S.H. (1971). "Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide and Aerosols: Effects of Large Increases on Global Climate". Science
173 (3992): 138. doi:10.1126/science.173.3992.138. PMID 17739641.
[9] Hays, J.D.; Imbrie, J.; Shackleton, N.J. (1976). "Variations in the Earth's Orbit: Pacemaker of the Ice Ages". Science 194 (4270): 1121.
doi:10.1126/science.194.4270.1121. PMID 17790893.
[10] Petit, J.R., et al. (1999). "Climate and atmospheric history of the past 420,000 years from the Vostok ice core, Antarctica". Nature 399
(6735): 429–436. doi:10.1038/20859.
[11] Mason, B. J.. "QJRMS, 1976, p 473 (Symons Memorial Lecture)" (http:/ / www. wmconnolley. org. uk/ sci/ iceage/ mason. 1976. html).
Was an imminent Ice Age predicted in the '70s? No. . Retrieved November 17, 2005.
[12] Weart, Spencer. "The Modern Temperature Trend" (http:/ / www. aip. org/ history/ climate/ 20ctrend. htm#L_0338). The Discovery of
Global Warming. . Retrieved November 17, 2005.
[13] Emiliani, Cesare (November 1972). "Quaternary hypsithermals". Quaternary Research 2 (3): 270–3. doi:10.1016/0033-5894(72)90047-6.
[14] Past Climate Cycles: Ice Age Speculations (http:/ / www. aip. org/ history/ climate/ cycles. htm#N_29_)
[15] Weart, Spencer. "Past Cycles: Ice Age Speculations" (http:/ / www. aip. org/ history/ climate/ cycles. htm). The Discovery of Global
Warming. . Retrieved November 17, 2005.
[16] Kukla GJ, Matthews RK, Mitchell JM (November 1972). "Guest editorial: The end of the present interglacial". Quaternary Research 2 (3):
261–9. doi:10.1016/0033-5894(72)90046-4. [ Was an imminent Ice Age predicted in the '70s? No (http:/ / www. wmconnolley. org. uk/ sci/
iceage/ quat_res_1972. html) Lay summary].
[17] Kukla, G.J.; Matthews, R.K. (1972). "When Will the Present Interglacial End?". Science 178 (4057): 190–202.
doi:10.1126/science.178.4057.190. PMID 17789488.
[18] SCEP. "The 1970 SCEP report" (http:/ / www. wmconnolley. org. uk/ sci/ iceage/ scep-1970. html). Was an imminent Ice Age predicted in
the '70s? No. . Retrieved November 17, 2005.
[19] Patterns and Perspectives in Environmental Science (Hardcover) (http:/ / www. archive. org/ details/ patternsperspect00nati). Report of the
National Science Board. Government Printing Office. 1972. pp. 55. . Retrieved July 15, 2008.
[20] Science and the challenges ahead : report of the National Science Board (http:/ / www. archive. org/ details/ sciencechallenge00nati).
Report of the National Science Board. Government Printing Office. 1974. pp. 24. . Retrieved July 18, 2008.
[21] Science and the challenges ahead : report of the National Science Board (http:/ / www. archive. org/ details/ sciencechallenge00nati).
Report of the National Science Board. Government Printing Office. 1974. pp. 25. . Retrieved July 18, 2008.
[22] U. S. National Academy of Sciences. "The 1975 US National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council Report" (http:/ / www.
wmconnolley. org. uk/ sci/ iceage/ nas-1975. html). Was an imminent Ice Age predicted in the '70s? No. . Retrieved November 17, 2005.
[23] Singer, S. Fred. "Scientists add to heat over global warming" (http:/ / web. archive. org/ web/ 20051119045242/ http:/ / sepp. org/ glwarm/
sciaddheat. html). Archived from the original (http:/ / sepp. org/ glwarm/ sciaddheat. html) on November 19, 2005. . Retrieved November 19,
[24] "Science: Another Ice Age?" (http:/ / www. time. com/ time/ magazine/ article/ 0,9171,944914,00. html). Time. June 24, 1974. .
[25] Peter Gwynne (April 28, 1975). "The Cooling World". Newsweek.
[26] Jerry Adler (October 23, 2006). "Remember Global Cooling?" (http:/ / www. newsweek. com/ id/ 72481). Newsweek. .
Global cooling 134

[27] Schneider, Stephen (December 29, 1977). "Against instant books" (http:/ / stephenschneider. stanford. edu/ Publications/ PDF_Papers/
Schneider1977. pdf). Nature 270 (22): 650. doi:10.1038/270650a0. .
[28] "World Climate Conference 1979" (http:/ / www. wmconnolley. org. uk/ sci/ iceage/ wcc-1979. html). Was an imminent Ice Age predicted in
the '70s? No. . Retrieved November 17, 2005.
[29] Calvin, William H. (1998). "The great climate flip-flop" (http:/ / WilliamCalvin. com/ 1990s/ 1998AtlanticClimate. htm). The Atlantic
Monthly 281 (1): 47–64. .
[30] Schwartz, Peter; Randall, Doug (October 2003). An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National
Security (http:/ / www. grist. org/ pdf/ AbruptClimateChange2003. pdf). .
[31] Stripp, David (February 9, 2004). "The Pentagon's Weather Nightmare" (http:/ / money. cnn. com/ magazines/ fortune/ fortune_archive/
2004/ 02/ 09/ 360120/ index. htm). Fortune. .
[32] Townsend, Mark; Harris, Paul (2004-02-22). "Now the Pentagon tells Bush: climate change will destroy us" (http:/ / www. guardian. co. uk/
environment/ 2004/ feb/ 22/ usnews. theobserver). The Observer (London). .
[33] Jungclaus, Johann H.; et al. (2006). "Will Greenland melting halt the thermohaline circulation?". Geophysical Research Letters 33: L17708.
[34] EPICA community members; Barbante, Carlo; Barnes, Piers R. F.; Marc Barnola, Jean; Bigler, Matthias; Castellano, Emiliano; Cattani,
Olivier; Chappellaz, Jerome et al. (June 10, 2004). "Eight glacial cycles from an Antarctic ice core". Nature 429 (6992): 623–8.
doi:10.1038/nature02599. PMID 15190344.
[35] Berger, A.; Loutre, M. F. (2002). "An Exceptionally Long Interglacial Ahead?". Science 297 (5585): 1287–8. doi:10.1126/science.1076120.
PMID 12193773.
[36] Weart, Spencer. "Other Greenhouse Gases" (http:/ / www. aip. org/ history/ climate/ othergas. htm). The Discovery of Global Warming. .
Retrieved November 17, 2005.

• Carslaw, K. S.. "The Climate Record: The Last Several Centuries and Last Several Decades. Is the Climate
Stable?" ( ENVI2150 Climate
Change: Scientific Issues. Retrieved November 17, 2005.
• unknown. "History of Continental Drift - Before Wegener" (
PH_061_History_a.htm). Retrieved November 17, 2005.
• Vanderbilt Television News Archive

External links
• Details historical presentation of Global Cooling in the popular media (
• Discussion and quotes from various papers about the "1970s prediction of an imminent ice age" (http://www.
• SCOPE 13 - The Global Carbon Cycle (,
SCOPE, 1976.
• SCOPE 27 - Climate Impact Assessment (,
• "Another Ice Age?" (,8816,944914,00.html). TIME. 1974-06-24.
• Chambers FM, Brain SA (2002). "Paradigm shifts in late-Holocene climatology?" (
content/abstract/12/2/239). The Holocene 12 (2): 239–249. doi:10.1191/0959683602hl540fa.
• - some newspaper scans
• - CIA report from 1974
Atlantic multidecadal oscillation 135

Atlantic multidecadal oscillation

The Atlantic multidecadal oscillation
(AMO) is a mode of variability occurring in
the North Atlantic Ocean and which has its
principal expression in the sea surface
temperature (SST) field. While there is
some support for this mode in models and in
historical observations, controversy exists
with regard to its amplitude, and in
particular, the attribution of sea surface
temperature change to natural or
anthropogenic causes, especially in tropical
Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation Timeseries, 1856–2009
Atlantic areas important for hurricane

The Atlantic multidecadal oscillation (AMO) was identified by Schlesinger and Ramankutty in 1994.[1]
The AMO signal is usually defined from the patterns of SST variability in the North Atlantic once any linear trend
has been removed. This detrending is intended to remove the influence of greenhouse gas-induced global warming
from the analysis. However, if the global warming signal is significantly non-linear in time (i.e. not just a smooth
increase), variations in the forced signal will leak into the AMO definition. Consequently, correlations with the
AMO index may alias effects of global warming.

In models, AMO-like variability is associated with small changes in the North Atlantic branch of the Thermohaline
Circulation, however historical oceanic observations are not sufficient to associate the derived AMO index to present
day circulation anomalies.

Climate impacts worldwide

The AMO index is correlated to air temperatures and rainfall over much of the Northern Hemisphere, in particular,
North America and Europe such as North Eastern Brazilian and African Sahel rainfall and North American and
European summer climate. It is also associated with changes in the frequency of North American droughts and is
reflected in the frequency of severe Atlantic hurricanes. It alternately obscures and exaggerates the global increase in
temperatures due to human-induced global warming [2] .
Recent research suggests that the AMO is related to the past occurrence of major droughts in the US Midwest and
the Southwest. When the AMO is in its warm phase, these droughts tend to be more frequent or prolonged. Two of
the most severe droughts of the 20th century occurred during the positive AMO between 1925 and 1965: The Dust
Bowl of the 1930s and the 1950s drought. Florida and the Pacific Northwest tend to be the opposite—warm AMO,
more rainfall.
Climate models suggest that a warm phase of the AMO strengthens the summer rainfall over India and Sahel and the
North Atlantic tropical cyclone activity.[3] Paleoclimatologic studies have confirmed this pattern—increased rainfall
in AMO warmphase, decreased in cold phase—for the Sahel over the past 3,000 years.[4]
Atlantic multidecadal oscillation 136

Relation to Atlantic hurricanes

In viewing actual data on a short time horizon, sparse experience
would suggest the frequency of major hurricanes is not strongly
correlated with the AMO. During warm phases of the AMO, the
number of minor hurricanes (category 1 and 2) saw a modest
increase.[5] With full consideration of meteorological science, the
number of tropical storms that can mature into severe hurricanes is
much greater during warm phases of the AMO than during cool
phases, at least twice as many; the AMO is reflected in the frequency
Atlantic basin cyclone intensity by Accumulated
of severe Atlantic hurricanes.[2] The hurricane activity index is found
cyclone energy, timeseries 1895-2007
to be highly correlated with the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation.[5] If
there is an increase in hurricane activity connected to global warming,
it is currently obscured by the AMO quasi-periodic cycle.[5] The AMO alternately obscures and exaggerates the
global increase in temperatures due to human-induced global warming.[2] Based on the typical duration of negative
and positive phases of the AMO, the current warm regime is expected to persist at least until 2015 and possibly as
late as 2035. Enfield et al. assume a peak around 2020.[6]

Florida rainfall
The AMO has a strong effect on Florida rainfall. Rainfall in central and south Florida becomes more plentiful when
the Atlantic is in its warm phase and droughts and wildfires are more frequent in the cool phase. As a result of these
variations, the inflow to Lake Okeechobee — the reservoir for South Florida’s water supply — changes by as much
as 40% between AMO extremes. In northern Florida the relationship begins to reverse — less rainfall when the
Atlantic is warm.

Periodicity and prediction of AMO shifts

There are only about 130–150 years of data based on instrument data which are too few samples for conventional
statistical approaches. With aid of multi –century proxy reconstruction, a longer period of 424 years was used by
Enfield and Cid–Serrano as an illustration of an approach as described in their paper called "The Probabilistic
Projection of Climate Risk".[7] Their histogram of zero crossing intervals from a set of five re-sampled and smoothed
version of Gray et al (2004) index together with the Maximum Likelihood Estimate gamma distribution fit to the
histogram, showed that the largest frequency of regime interval was around 10–20 year. The cumulative probability
for all intervals 20 years or less was about 70% [8]
There is no demonstrated predictability for when the AMO will switch, in any deterministic sense. Computer
models, such as those that predict El Niño, are far from being able to do this. Enfield and colleagues have calculated
the probability that a change in the AMO will occur within a given future time frame, assuming that historical
variability persists. Probabilistic projections [9] of this kind may prove to be useful for long-term planning in climate
sensitive applications, such as water management.
Assuming that the AMO continues with its quasi-cycle of roughly 70 years, the peak of the current warm phase
would be expected in c. 2020,[10] or based on its 50–90 year quasi-cycle, between 2000 and 2040 (after peaks in c.
1880 and c. 1950).[6]
Atlantic multidecadal oscillation 137

[1] Schlesinger, M. E. (1994). "An oscillation in the global climate system of period 65-70 years". Nature 367 (6465): 723–726.
Bibcode 1994Natur.367..723S. doi:10.1038/367723a0.
[2] "National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Frequently Asked Questions about the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation" (http:/ / www.
aoml. noaa. gov/ phod/ amo_faq. php).
[3] Zhang, R.; Delworth, T. L. (2006). "Impact of Atlantic multidecadal oscillations on India/Sahel rainfall and Atlantic hurricanes". Geophys.
Res. Lett. 33: L17712. doi:10.1029/2006GL026267.
[4] Shanahan, T. M.; et al. (2009). "Atlantic Forcing of Persistent Drought in West Africa". Science 324 (5925): 377–380.
doi:10.1126/science.1166352. PMID 19372429.
[5] Chylek, P.; Lesins, G. (2008). "Multidecadal variability of Atlantic hurricane activity: 1851–2007". Journal of Geophysical Research 113:
D22106. doi:10.1029/2008JD010036
[6] Enfield, David B.; Cid-Serrano, Luis (2010). "Secular and multidecadal warmings in the North Atlantic and their relationships with major
hurricane activity". International Journal of Climatology 30 (2): 174–184. doi:10.1002/joc.1881
[7] http:/ / www. usclivar. org/ Newsletter/ Variations_V3N3/ Enfield. pdf
[8] For additional comments and citations see AMO, The Key Global Climate Indicator (http:/ / icecap. us/ images/ uploads/ amoarticlel. pdf).
[9] http:/ / www. aoml. noaa. gov/ phod/ d2m_shift/ index. php
[10] Curry, Judith A. (2008). "Potential Increased Hurricane Activity in a Greenhouse Warmed World". In MacCracken, Michael C.; Moore,
Frances; Topping, John C.. Sudden and disruptive climate change. London: Earthscan. pp. 29–38. ISBN 1844074781. "Assuming that the
AMO continues with a 70-year periodicity, the peak of the next cycle would be expected in 2020 (70 years after the previous 1950 peak)."

Further reading
• Andronova, N. G.; Schlesinger, M. E. (2000). "Causes of global temperature changes during the 19th and 20th
centuries" ( Geophys. Res. Lett. 27:
2137–2140. doi:10.1029/2000GL006109.
• Delworth, T. L.; Mann, M. E. (2000). "Observed and simulated multidecadal variability in the Northern
Hemisphere". Climate Dynamics 16: 661–676. doi:10.1007/s003820000075.
• Enfield, D. B.; Mestas-Nunez, A. M.; Trimble, P. J. (2001). "The Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation and its
relationship to rainfall and river flows in the continental U.S." (
2000GL012745.shtml). Geophys. Res. Lett. 28: 2077–2080. doi:10.1029/2000GL012745.
• Goldenberg, S. B.; et al. (2001). "The recent increase in Atlantic hurricane activity: Causes and implications".
Science 293: 474–479. doi:10.1126/science.1060040. PMID 11463911.
• Gray, S. T.; et al. (2004). "A tree-ring based reconstruction of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation since 1567
A.D.". Geophys. Res. Lett. 31: L12205. doi:10.1029/2004GL019932.
• Hetzinger, Steffen; et al. (2008). "Caribbean coral tracks Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation and past hurricane
activity". Geology 36 (1): 11–14. doi:10.1130/G24321A.1.
• Kerr, R. A. (2000). "A North Atlantic climate pacemaker for the centuries". Science 288 (5473): 1984–1986.
doi:10.1126/science.288.5473.1984. PMID 17835110.
• Kerr, R. A. (2005). "Atlantic climate pacemaker for millennia past, decades hence?". Science 309 (5731): 41–43.
• Knight, J. R. (2005). "A signature of persistent natural thermohaline circulation cycles in observed climate".
Geophys. Res. Lett. 32: L20708. doi:10.1029/2005GL024233.
• McCabe, G. J., G. J.; Palecki, M. A.; Betancourt, J. L. (2004). "Pacific and Atlantic Ocean influences on
multidecadal drought frequency in the United States". PNAS 101: 4136–4141. doi:10.1073/pnas.0306738101.
PMID 15016919.
• Sutton, R. T.; Hodson, L. R. (2005). "Atlantic forcing of North American and European summer climate". Science
309: 115–118. doi:10.1126/science.1109496. PMID 15994552.
• Knight, J. R.; C. K. Folland, and A. A. Scaife (2006). "Climate impacts of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation".
Geophys. Res. Lett. 33: L17706. doi:10.1029/2006GL026242.
• "Climate change: the next ten years" (
500-climate-change-the-next-ten-years.html) by Fred Pearce and Michael Le Page, New Scientist, 13 Aug. 2008,
Atlantic multidecadal oscillation 138

pp. 26–30.

External links
• Frequently asked questions about the AMO (
• Probabilistic projection of future AMO regime shifts (
• AMO Data from 1856 - Present (

El Niño-Southern Oscillation
El Niño/La Niña-Southern Oscillation, or ENSO, is a
quasiperiodic climate pattern that occurs across the tropical Pacific
Ocean with on average five year intervals. It is characterized by
variations in the temperature of the surface of the tropical eastern
Pacific Ocean—warming or cooling known as El Niño and La
Niña respectively—and air surface pressure in the tropical western
Pacific—the Southern Oscillation. The two variations are coupled:
the warm oceanic phase, El Niño, accompanies high air surface
pressure in the western Pacific, while the cold phase, La Niña,
accompanies low air surface pressure in the western Pacific.[2] [3]
Mechanisms that cause the oscillation remain under study.

ENSO causes extreme weather (such as floods and droughts) in

many regions of the world. Developing countries dependent upon The 1997 El Niño observed by TOPEX/Poseidon. The
agriculture and fishing, particularly those bordering the Pacific white areas off the tropical coasts of South and North
America indicate the pool of warm water.
Ocean, are the most affected. In popular usage, the El
Niño-Southern Oscillation is often called just "El Niño". El Niño
is Spanish for "the boy" and refers to the Christ child, because periodic warming in the Pacific near South America is
usually noticed around Christmas.[4] The expression of ENSO is potentially subject to dramatic changes as a result of
global warming, and is a target for research in this regard.

El Niño is defined by prolonged differences in Pacific Ocean surface temperatures when compared with the average
value. The accepted definition is a warming or cooling of at least 0.5 °C (0.9 °F) averaged over the east-central
tropical Pacific Ocean. Typically, this anomaly happens at irregular intervals of 2–7 years and lasts nine months to
two years.[5] The average period length is 5 years. When this warming or cooling occurs for only seven to nine
months, it is classified as El Niño/La Niña "conditions"; when it occurs for more than that period, it is classified as
El Niño/La Niña "episodes".[6]
The first signs of an El Niño are:
1. Rise in surface pressure over the Indian Ocean, Indonesia, and Australia
2. Fall in air pressure over Tahiti and the rest of the central and eastern Pacific Ocean
3. Trade winds in the south Pacific weaken or head east
4. Warm air rises near Peru, causing rain in the northern Peruvian deserts
5. Warm water spreads from the west Pacific and the Indian Ocean to the east Pacific. It takes the rain with it,
causing extensive drought in the western Pacific and rainfall in the normally dry eastern Pacific.
El Niño-Southern Oscillation 139

El Niño's warm rush of nutrient-poor tropical water, heated by its eastward passage in the Equatorial Current,
replaces the cold, nutrient-rich surface water of the Humboldt Current. When El Niño conditions last for many
months, extensive ocean warming and the reduction in Easterly Trade winds limits upwelling of cold nutrient-rich
deep water and its economic impact to local fishing for an international market can be serious.[7]

Early stages and characteristics of El Niño

Although its causes are still being investigated, El Niño
events begin when trade winds, part of the Walker
circulation, falter for many months. A series of Kelvin
waves—relatively warm subsurface waves of water a
few centimetres high and hundreds of kilometres
wide—cross the Pacific along the equator and create a
pool of warm water near South America, where ocean
temperatures are normally cold due to upwelling. The
weakening of the winds can also create twin cyclones,
another sign of a future El Niño.[8] The Pacific Ocean is
a heat reservoir that drives global wind patterns, and
the resulting change in its temperature alters weather on
a global scale.[9] Rainfall shifts from the western
Pacific toward the Americas, while Indonesia and India
become drier.[10]

Jacob Bjerknes in 1969 helped toward an 5-day running mean of MJO. Note how it moves eastward with time.

understanding of ENSO, by suggesting that an

anomalously warm spot in the eastern Pacific can weaken the east-west temperature difference, disrupting trade
winds that push warm water to the west. The result is increasingly warm water toward the east.[11] Several
mechanisms have been proposed through which warmth builds up in equatorial Pacific surface waters, and is then
dispersed to lower depths by an El Niño event.[12] The resulting cooler area then has to "recharge" warmth for
several years before another event can take place.[13]

While not a direct cause of El Niño, the Madden-Julian Oscillation, or MJO, propagates rainfall anomalies eastward
around the global tropics in a cycle of 30–60 days, and may influence the speed of development and intensity of El
Niño and La Niña in several ways.[14] For example, westerly flows between MJO-induced areas of low pressure may
cause cyclonic circulations north and south of the equator. When the circulations intensify, the westerly winds within
the equatorial Pacific can further increase and shift eastward, playing a role in El Niño development.[15]
Madden-Julian activity can also produce eastward-propagating oceanic Kelvin waves, which may in turn be
influenced by a developing El Niño, leading to a positive feedback loop.[16]
El Niño-Southern Oscillation 140

Southern Oscillation
The Southern Oscillation is the atmospheric
component of El Niño. This component is an
oscillation in surface air pressure between the tropical
eastern and the western Pacific Ocean waters. The
strength of the Southern Oscillation is measured by
the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI). The SOI is
computed from fluctuations in the surface air pressure
difference between Tahiti and Darwin, Australia.[17]
El Niño episodes are associated with negative values
of the SOI, meaning that the pressure difference
between Tahiti and Darwin is relatively small.

Low atmospheric pressure tends to occur over warm Normal Pacific pattern. Equatorial winds gather warm water pool
toward west. Cold water upwells along South American coast. (NOAA
water and high pressure occurs over cold water, in
part because deep convection over the warm water
acts to transport air. El Niño episodes are defined as
sustained warming of the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. This results in a decrease in the strength of the
Pacific trade winds, and a reduction in rainfall over eastern and northern Australia.

Walker circulation
During non-El Niño conditions, the Walker
circulation is seen at the surface as easterly trade
winds which move water and air warmed by the sun
towards the west. This also creates ocean upwelling
off the coasts of Peru and Ecuador and brings
nutrient-rich cold water to the surface, increasing
fishing stocks. The western side of the equatorial
Pacific is characterized by warm, wet low pressure
weather as the collected moisture is dumped in the
form of typhoons and thunderstorms. The ocean is
some 60 centimetres (24 in) higher in the western
Pacific as the result of this motion.[18] [19] [20] [21] El Niño Conditions. Warm water pool approaches South American
coast. Absence of cold upwelling increases warming.

Effects of ENSO's warm phase (El


South America
Because El Niño's warm pool feeds thunderstorms above, it creates increased rainfall across the east-central and
eastern Pacific Ocean including several portions of the South American west coast. The effects of El Niño in South
America are direct
El Niño-Southern Oscillation 141

and stronger than in North America. An El Niño is

associated with warm and very wet weather months
April–October along the coasts of northern Peru and
Ecuador, causing major flooding whenever the event
is strong or extreme.[22] The effects during the months
of February, March and April may become critical.
Along the west coast of South America, El Niño
reduces the upwelling of cold, nutrient-rich water that
sustains large fish populations, which in turn sustain
abundant sea birds, whose droppings support the
fertilizer industry. This leads to fish kills offshore
Peru.[7] La Niña Conditions. Warm water is further west than usual.

The local fishing industry along the affected coastline can suffer during long-lasting El Niño events. The world's
largest fishery collapsed due to overfishing during the 1972 El Niño Peruvian anchoveta reduction. During the
1982–83 event, jack mackerel and anchoveta populations were reduced, scallops increased in warmer water, but
hake followed cooler water down the continental slope, while shrimp and sardines moved southward so some catches
decreased while others increased.[23] Horse mackerel have increased in the region during warm events. Shifting
locations and types of fish due to changing conditions provide challenges for fishing industries. Peruvian sardines
have moved during El Niño events to Chilean areas. Other conditions provide further complications, such as the
government of Chile in 1991 creating restrictions on the fishing areas for self-employed fishermen and industrial
The ENSO variability may contribute to the great success of small fast-growing species along the Peruvian coast, as
periods of low population removes predators in the area. Similar effects benefit migratory birds that travel each
spring from predator-rich tropical areas to distant winter-stressed nesting areas.
Southern Brazil and northern Argentina also experience wetter than normal conditions but mainly during the spring
and early summer. Central Chile receives a mild winter with large rainfall, and the Peruvian-Bolivian Altiplano is
sometimes exposed to unusual winter snowfall events. Drier and hotter weather occurs in parts of the Amazon River
Basin, Colombia and Central America.
El Niño-Southern Oscillation 142

North America
Winters, during the El Niño effect, are warmer and
drier than average in the Northwest, Northmidwest,
and Northmideast United States, and therefore those
regions experience reduced snowfalls. Meanwhile,
significantly wetter winters are present in northwest
Mexico and the southwest United States including
central and southern California, while both cooler and
wetter than average winters in northeast Mexico and
the southeast United States (including the Tidewater
region of Virginia) occur during the El Niño phase of
the oscillation.[24] [25]

In Canada, both warmer and drier winters (due to

forcing of the Polar Jet further north) over much of
the country occur, although less variation from normal
is seen in the Maritime Provinces. The following
summer is warmer and sometimes drier creating a
more active than average forest fire season over
Central/Eastern Canada. Some believed that the Regional impacts of warm ENSO episodes (El Niño).
ice-storm in January 1998, which devastated parts of
Southern Ontario and Southern Quebec, was caused or accentuated by El Niño's warming effects.[26] El Niño
warmed Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympics, such that the area experienced a subtropical-like winter during
the games.[27]

Summers, during the El Niño effect, are wetter than average in the Northwest, Northmidwest, Northmideast, and
mountain regions of the United States.
El Niño is credited with suppressing hurricanes and made the 2009 hurricane season the least active in twelve
years.[28] El Niño is also associated with increased wave-caused coastal erosion along the United States Pacific
There is some evidence that El Niño activity is correlated with incidence of red tides off the Pacific coast of

Tropical cyclones
Most tropical cyclones form on the side of the subtropical ridge closer to the equator, then move poleward past the
ridge axis before recurving into the main belt of the Westerlies.[29] When the subtropical ridge position shifts due to
El Niño, so will the preferred tropical cyclone tracks. Areas west of Japan and Korea tend to experience much fewer
September–November tropical cyclone impacts during El Niño and neutral years. During El Niño years, the break in
the subtropical ridge tends to lie near 130°E, which would favor the Japanese archipelago.[30] During El Niño years,
Guam's chance of a tropical cyclone impact is one-third of the long term average.[31] The tropical Atlantic ocean
experiences depressed activity due to increased vertical wind shear across the region during El Niño years.[32]
El Niño-Southern Oscillation 143

In Africa, East Africa, including Kenya, Tanzania and the White Nile basin experiences, in the long rains from
March to May, wetter than normal conditions. There are also drier than normal conditions from December to
February in south-central Africa, mainly in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Botswana. Direct effects of El
Niño resulting in drier conditions occur in parts of Southeast Asia and Northern Australia, increasing bush fires and
worsening haze and decreasing air quality dramatically. Drier than normal conditions are also generally observed in
Queensland, inland Victoria, inland New South Wales and eastern Tasmania from June to August. West of the
Antarctic Peninsula, the Ross, Bellingshausen, and Amundsen Sea sectors have more sea ice during El Niño. The
latter two and the Weddell Sea also become warmer and have higher atmospheric pressure. El Niño's effects on
Europe are not entirely clear, but certainly it is not nearly as affected as at least large parts of other continents. There
is some evidence that an El Niño may cause a wetter, cloudier winter in Northern Europe and a milder, drier winter
in the Mediterranean Sea region. The El Niño winter of 2006/2007 was unusually mild in Europe, and the Alps
recorded very little snow coverage that season.[33]
Most recently, Singapore experienced the driest February in 2010 since records begins in 1869. With only 6.3
millimetres of rain fell in the month and temperatures hitting as high as 35 degrees Celsius on 26 February. 1968 and
2005 had the next driest Februaries when 8.4 mm of rain fell.[34]

Effects of ENSO's cool phase (La Niña)

La Niña is the name for the cold phase of
ENSO, during which the cold pool in the
eastern Pacific intensifies and the trade
winds strengthen. The name La Niña
originates from Spanish, meaning "the girl",
analogous to El Niño meaning "the boy". It
has also in the past been called anti-El Niño,
and El Viejo (meaning "the old man").[35]

Africa Sea surface skin temperature anomalies in November 2007 showing La Niña
La Niña results in wetter than normal
conditions in Southern Africa from
December to February, and drier than normal conditions over equatorial East Africa over the same period.[36]

During La Niña years, the formation of tropical cyclones, along with the subtropical ridge position, shifts westward
across the western Pacific ocean, which increases the landfall threat to China.[30] In March 2008, La Niña caused a
drop in sea surface temperatures over Southeast Asia by an amount of 2 °C. It also caused heavy rains over
Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia.[37]

South America
During a time of La Niña, drought plagues the coastal regions of Peru and Chile.[38] From December to February,
northern Brazil is wetter than normal.[38]
El Niño-Southern Oscillation 144

North America
La Niña causes mostly the opposite effects of El Niño.
La Niña causes above average precipitation across the
North Midwest, the Northern Rockies, Northern
California, and in the Pacific Northwest's southern
and eastern regions. Meanwhile there is below
average precipitation in the southwestern and
southeastern states.[39]

La Niñas occurred in 1904, 1908, 1910, 1916, 1924,

1928, 1938, 1950, 1955, 1964, 1970, 1973, 1975,
1988, 1995.[40]
In Canada, La Niña will generally cause a cooler,
snowier winter, such as the near record-breaking
amounts of snow recorded in the La Niña winter of
2007/2008 in Eastern Canada.[41]

Recent occurrences
There was a strong La Niña episode during Regional impacts of La Niña.
1988–1989. La Niña also formed in 1995, from
1998–2000, and a minor one from 2000–2001. Recently, an occurrence of El Niño started in September 2006[42] and
lasted until early 2007.[43] From June 2007 on, data indicated a moderate La Niña event, which strengthened in early
2008 and weakened by early 2009; the 2007–2008 La Niña event was the strongest since the 1988–1989 event. The
strength of the La Niña made the 2008 hurricane season one of the most active since 1944; there were 16 named
storms of at least 39 mph (63 km/h), eight of which became 74 mph (119 km/h) or greater hurricanes.[28]

According to NOAA, El Niño conditions were in place in the equatorial Pacific Ocean starting June 2009, peaking in
January–February. Positive SST anomalies (El Niño) lasted until May 2010. Since then, SST anomalies have been
negative (La Niña) and expected to stay negative for the next northern winter.[44]

Remote influence on tropical Atlantic Ocean

A study of climate records has shown that El Niño events in the equatorial Pacific are generally associated with a
warm tropical North Atlantic in the following spring and summer.[45] About half of El Niño events persist
sufficiently into the spring months for the Western Hemisphere Warm Pool (WHWP) to become unusually large in
summer.[46] Occasionally, El Niño's effect on the Atlantic Walker circulation over South America strengthens the
easterly trade winds in the western equatorial Atlantic region. As a result, an unusual cooling may occur in the
eastern equatorial Atlantic in spring and summer following El Niño peaks in winter.[47] Cases of El Niño-type events
in both oceans simultaneously have been linked to severe famines related to the extended failure of monsoon
El Niño-Southern Oscillation 145

ENSO and global warming

During the last several decades the number of El Niño events increased, and the number of La Niña events
decreased.[49] The question is whether this is a random fluctuation or a normal instance of variation for that
phenomenon, or the result of global climate changes towards global warming.
The studies of historical data show that the recent El Niño variation is most likely linked to global warming. For
example, one of the most recent results is that even after subtracting the positive influence of decadal variation,
shown to be possibly present in the ENSO trend,[50] the amplitude of the ENSO variability in the observed data still
increases, by as much as 60% in the last 50 years.[51]
It is not certain what exact changes will happen to ENSO in the future: different models make different predictions
(cf.[52] ) It may be that the observed phenomenon of more frequent and stronger El Niño events occurs only in the
initial phase of the global warming, and then (e.g., after the lower layers of the ocean get warmer as well), El Niño
will become weaker than it was.[53] It may also be that the stabilizing and destabilizing forces influencing the
phenomenon will eventually compensate for each other.[] More research is needed to provide a better answer to that
question, but the current results do not completely exclude the possibility of dramatic changes. The ENSO is
considered to be a potential tipping element in Earth's climate.[54]

El Niño "Modoki" and Central-Pacific El Niño

The traditional Niño, also called Eastern Pacific (EP) El
Niño,[55] involves temperature anomalies in the Eastern Pacific.
However, in the last two decades non-traditional El Niños were
observed, in which the usual place of the temperature anomaly
(Nino 1 and 2) is not affected, but an anomaly arises in the
Map showing Nino3.4 and other index regions
central Pacific (Nino 3.4).[56] The phenomenon is called Central
Pacific (CP) El Niño,[55] "dateline" El Niño (because the
anomaly arises near the dateline), or El Niño "Modoki" (Modoki
is Japanese for "similar, but different").[57]

The effects of the CP El Niño are different from those of the

traditional EP El Niño—e.g., the new El Niño leads to more
hurricanes more frequently making landfall in the Atlantic.[58]
The recent discovery of El Niño Modoki has some scientists
believing it to be linked to global warming.[59] However,
Satellite data only goes back to 1979. More research must be Map of Atlantic major hurricanes during post-"Modoki"
done to find the correlation and study past El Niño episodes. seasons, including 1987, 1992, 1995, 2003 and 2005.

The first recorded El Niño that originated in the central Pacific

and moved towards the east was in 1986.[60]
A joint study by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration concluded that climate change may contribute to stronger El Niños. El Niño "Modoki" events
occurred in 1991-92, 1994–95, 2002–03, 2004–05 and 2009-10.[61] The strongest such Central Pacific El Niño event
known occurred in 2009-2010.[62]
El Niño-Southern Oscillation 146

Health Impact of El Niño

Extreme weather conditions related with the El Niño cycle are associated with changes in the incidence of epidemic
diseases. For example, the El Niño cycle is associated with increased risks of some of the diseases transmitted by
mosquitoes, such as malaria, dengue and Rift Valley fever. Cycles of malaria in India, Venezuela and Colombia have
now been linked to El Niño. Outbreaks of another mosquito-transmitted disease, Australian Encephalitis (Murray
Valley Encephalitis - MVE), occur in temperate south-east Australia after heavy rainfall and flooding, which are
associated with La Nina events. A severe outbreak of Rift Valley fever occurred after extreme rainfall in
north-eastern Kenya and southern Somalia during the 1997-98 El Niño.[63]

Cultural history and pre-historic information

ENSO conditions have occurred at two- to seven year intervals for
at least the past 300 years, but most of them have been weak.
There is also evidence for strong El Niño events during the early
Holocene epoch 10,000 years ago.[64]
El Niño affected pre-Columbian Incas [65] and may have led to the
demise of the Moche and other pre-Columbian Peruvian
cultures.[66] A recent study suggests that a strong El-Niño effect
between 1789–93 caused poor crop yields in Europe, which in turn
helped touch off the French Revolution.[67] The extreme weather
produced by El Niño in 1876–77 gave rise to the most deadly
famines of the 19th century.[68]

An early recorded mention of the term "El Niño" to refer to

climate occurs in 1892, when Captain Camilo Carrillo told the
Geographical society congress in Lima that Peruvian sailors
named the warm northerly current "El Niño" because it was most
noticeable around Christmas. The phenomenon had long been of
interest because of its effects on the guano industry and other
enterprises that depend on biological productivity of the sea.
Average equatorial Pacific temperatures
Charles Todd, in 1893, suggested that droughts in India and
Australia tended to occur at the same time; Norman Lockyer noted the same in 1904. An El Niño connection with
flooding was reported in 1895 by Pezet and Eguiguren. In 1924 Gilbert Walker (for whom the Walker circulation is
named) coined the term "Southern Oscillation".
The major 1982–83 El Niño led to an upsurge of interest from the scientific community. The period from 1990–1994
was unusual in that El Niños have rarely occurred in such rapid succession.[69] An especially intense El Niño event
in 1998 caused an estimated 16% of the world's reef systems to die. The event temporarily warmed air temperature
by 1.5 °C, compared to the usual increase of 0.25 °C associated with El Niño events.[70] Since then, mass coral
bleaching has become common worldwide, with all regions having suffered "severe bleaching".[71]
Major ENSO events were recorded in the years 1790–93, 1828, 1876–78, 1891, 1925–26, 1972–73, 1982–83, and
El Niño-Southern Oscillation 147

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Further reading
• Caviedes, César N. (2001). El Niño in History: Storming Through the Ages. Gainesville: University of Florida
Press. ISBN 0813020999.
• Fagan, Brian M. (1999). Floods, Famines, and Emperors: El Niño and the Fate of Civilizations. New York: Basic
Books. ISBN 0712664785.
• Glantz, Michael H. (2001). Currents of change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 052178672X.
• Philander, S. George (1990). El Niño, La Niña and the Southern Oscillation. San Diego: Academic Press.
ISBN 0125532350.
• Trenberth, Kevin E. (1997). "The definition of El Niño" (
?request=res-loc&uri=urn:ap:pdf:doi:10.1175/1520-0477(1997)078<2771:TDOENO>2.0.CO;2) (pdf). Bulletin
of the American Meteorological Scociety 78 (12): 2771–7.
doi:10.1175/1520-0477(1997)078<2771:TDOENO>2.0.CO;2. ISSN 1520-0477.
El Niño-Southern Oscillation 150

External links
• Latest ENSO updates & predictions from the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (http://iri.
• PO.DAAC's El Niño Animations (
• National Academy of Sciences El Niño/La Niña article (
• NOAA FAQ "What is ENSO?" (
• Latest El Niño/La Niña Data from NASA (
• Economic Costs of El Niño / La Niña and Economic Benefits from Improved Forecasting (http://www.ncdc. from "NOAA Socioeconomics" website initiative
• El-Niño-Southern Oscillation (
• El Niño and La Niña from the 1999 International Red Cross World Disasters Report (http://www.ericjlyman.
com/elnino.html) by Eric J. Lyman.
• ENSO (El Niño-Southern Oscillation) (
• La Niña episodes in the Tropical Pacific (
• NOAA announces 2004 El Niño (
• NOAA El Niño Page (
• Ocean Motion: El Niño (
• SOI (Southern Oscillation Index) (
• The Climate of Peru (
• What is El Niño? (
• What is La Niña? (
• El-Nino, La-Nina, Southern Oscillation, ENSO (
• Kelvin Wave Renews El Niño - NASA, Earth Observatory image of the day, 2010, March 21 (http://
• Animation of ENSO in Victoria, Australia (
Indian Ocean Dipole 151

Indian Ocean Dipole

The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) is an irregular oscillation of
sea-surface temperatures in which the western Indian Ocean becomes
alternately warmer and then colder than the eastern part of the ocean.

The phenomenon
The IOD involves an aperiodic oscillation of sea-surface temperatures,
between "positive", "neutral" and "negative" phases. A positive phase
Water temperatures around the Mentawai Islands
sees greater-than-average sea-surface temperatures and greater dropped about 4° Celsius during the height of the
precipitation in the western Indian Ocean region, with a corresponding Indian Ocean Dipole in November of 1997.
cooling of waters in the eastern Indian Ocean—which tends to cause During these events unusually strong winds from
the east push warm surface water towards Africa,
droughts in adjacent land areas of Indonesia and Australia. The
allowing cold water to upwell along the Sumatran
negative phase of the IOD brings about the opposite conditions, with coast. In this image blue areas are colder than
warmer water and greater precipitation in the eastern Indian Ocean, normal, while red areas are warmer than normal.
and cooler and drier conditions in the west.

The IOD also affects the strength of monsoons over the Indian subcontinent. A significant positive IOD occurred in
1997-8, with another in 2006. The IOD is one aspect of the general cycle of global climate, interacting with similar
phenomena like the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in the Pacific Ocean.
The IOD phenomenon was first identified by climate researchers in 1999. Yet evidence from fossil coral reefs
demonstrates that the IOD has functioned since at least the middle of the Holocene period, 6500 years ago.
An average of four each positive/negative IOD events occur during each 30 year period with each event lasting
around six months. However, there have been 12 positive IODs since 1980 and no negative events since 1992. The
occurrence of consecutive positive IOD events are extremely rare with only two such events recorded, 1913–1914
and the three consecutive events from 2006-2008 which preceded the Black Saturday bushfires. Modelling indicates
that consecutive positive events occur twice over a 1,000 year period. The positive IOD in 2007 evolved together
with La Niña which is a very rare phenomenon that has happened only once in the available historical records (in
1967).[1] [2] [3] [4]

Effect on Australian Droughts

A 2009 study by Ummenhofer et al. at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Climate Change Research
Centre, has demonstrated a significant correlation between the IOD and drought in the southern half of Australia, in
particular the south-east. Every major southern drought since 1889 has coincided with positive/neutral IOD
fluctuations including the 1895-1902, 1937–1945 and the current 1995-present droughts.[5]
The research shows that when the IOD is in its negative phase, with cool Indian Ocean water west of Australia and
warm Timor Sea water to the north, winds are generated that pick up moisture from the ocean and then sweep down
towards southern Australia to deliver higher rainfall. In the IOD positive phase, the pattern of ocean temperatures is
reversed, weakening the winds and reducing the amount of moisture picked up and transported across Australia. The
consequence is that rainfall in the south-east is well below average during periods of a positive IOD.
The study also shows that the IOD has a much more significant effect on the rainfall patterns in south-east Australia
than the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in the Pacific Ocean as already shown in some of the previous [6] [7]
and recent studies.[8]
Indian Ocean Dipole 152

Further reading
• Abram, Nerilie J.; et al. (2007). "Seasonal characteristics of the Indian Ocean dipole during the Holocene epoch".
Nature 445 (7125): 299–302. doi:10.1038/nature05477. PMID 17230187.
• Ashok, Karumuri; Guan, Zhaoyong; Yamagata, Toshio (2001). "Impact of the Indian Ocean Dipole on the
Relationship between the Indian Monsoon Rainfall and ENSO". Geophysical Research Letters 28 (23):
4499–4502. Bibcode 2001GeoRL..28.4499A. doi:10.1029/2001GL013294.
• Li, Tim; et al. (2003). "A Theory for the Indian Ocean Dipole–Zonal Mode". Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences
60 (17): 2119–2135. doi:10.1175/1520-0469(2003)060<2119:ATFTIO>2.0.CO;2.
• Rao, S. A.; et al. (2002). "Interannual variability in the subsurface Indian Ocean with special emphasis on the
Indian Ocean Dipole". Deep Sea Research-II 49 (7–8): 1549–1572. doi:10.1016/S0967-0645(01)00158-8.
• Saji, N. H.; et al. (1999). "A dipole mode in the tropical Indian Ocean". Nature 401 (6751): 360–363.
doi:10.1038/43854. PMID 16862108.
• Behera, S. K.; et al. (2008). "Unusual IOD event of 2007". Geophysical Research Letters 35: L14S11.
Bibcode 2008GeoRL..3514S11B. doi:10.1029/2008GL034122.

[1] "Argo profiles a rare occurrence of three consecutive positive Indian Ocean Dipole events, 2006–2008" (http:/ / www. agu. org/ pubs/
crossref/ 2009/ 2008GL037038. shtml). Geophysical Research Letters. April 16, 2009. . Retrieved December 22, 2009.
[2] Cooper, Dani (March 25, 2009). "Bushfire origins lie in Indian Ocean" (http:/ / www. abc. net. au/ science/ articles/ 2009/ 03/ 25/ 2525580.
htm). Australian Broadcasting Corporation. . Retrieved December 22, 2009.
[3] Perry, Michael (February 5, 2009). "Indian Ocean linked to Australian droughts" (http:/ / www. reuters. com/ article/
idUSTRE5133FL20090205). Reuters. . Retrieved December 22, 2009.
[4] Rosebro, Jack (February 12, 2009). "Australi Reels From Split Weather System" (http:/ / www. greencarcongress. com/ 2009/ 02/
australia-reels/ comments/ page/ 2/ ). Green Car Congress. . Retrieved December 22, 2009.
[5] Ummenhofer, Caroline C.; et al. (February 2009). "What causes southeast Australia's worst droughts?" (http:/ / www. agu. org/ pubs/
crossref/ 2009/ 2008GL036801. shtml). Geophysical Research Letters 36 (L04706). doi:10.1029//2008GL036801. .
[6] Swadhin K. Behera and Toshio Yamagata (2003). Influence of the Indian Ocean Dipole on the Southern Oscillation. Journal of the
Meteorological Society of Japan. (http:/ / www. jstage. jst. go. jp/ article/ jmsj/ 81/ 1/ 81_169/ ) 37, 169--177
[7] H. Annamalai, S.-P. Xie, J.-P. McCreary and R Murtugudde (2005). Impact of Indian Ocean sea surface temperature on developing El Niño.
Journal of Climatology. 18, 302-319 (http:/ / journals. ametsoc. org/ doi/ abs/ 10. 1175/ JCLI-3268. 1)
[8] Takeshi Izumo, Jérôme Vialard, Matthieu Lengaigne, Clément de Boyer Montegut, Swadhin K. Behera, Jing-Jia Luo, Sophie Cravatte,
Sébastien Masson and Toshio Yamagata (2010). Influence of the state of the Indian Ocean Dipole on the following year’s El Niño. Nature
Geoscience. 3, 168-172, DOI: 10.1038/NGEO760

External links
• IOD home page. (
• IOD, monsoons, and ENSO. (
• Indian Ocean causes Big Dry: drought mystery solved. (
• Animation of Indian Ocean Dipole in Victoria, Australia (
Pacific decadal oscillation 153

Pacific decadal oscillation

The Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) is a pattern of
Pacific climate variability that shifts phases on at least
inter-decadal time scale, usually about 20 to 30 years.
The PDO is detected as warm or cool surface waters in
the Pacific Ocean, north of 20° N. During a "warm", or
"positive", phase, the west Pacific becomes cool and
part of the eastern ocean warms; during a "cool" or
"negative" phase, the opposite pattern occurs.

The Pacific (inter-)decadal oscillation was named by

Steven R. Hare, who noticed it while studying salmon
production patterns results in 1997.[1]
The prevailing hypothesis is that the PDO is caused by
NASA image of the Pacific Ocean in April 2008 showing La Niña
a "reddening" of ENSO combined with stochastic and Pacific Decadal Anomalies.
atmospheric forcing.[2]
A PDO signal has been reconstructed to 1661 through tree-ring chronologies in the Baja California area.[3]
The interdecadal Pacific oscillation (IPO or ID) display similar sea-surface temperature (SST) and sea-level
pressure (SLP) patterns, with a cycle of 15–30 years, but affects both the north and south Pacific. In the tropical
Pacific, maximum SST anomalies are found away from the equator. This is quite different from the quasi-decadal
oscillation (QDO) with a period of 8-to-12 years and maximum SST anomalies straddling the equator, thus
resembling the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO).

Several studies have indicated that the PDO index can be reconstructed as the superimposition of tropical forcing and
extra-tropical processes.[2] [4] [5] [6] Thus, unlike ENSO, the PDO is not a single physical mode of ocean variability,
but rather the sum of several processes with different dynamical origins.
At inter-annual time scales the PDO index is reconstructed as the sum of random and ENSO induced variability in
the Aleutian low, on decadal timescales ENSO teleconnections, stochastic atmospheric forcing and changes in the
North Pacific oceanic gyre circulation contribute approximately equally, additionally sea surface temperature
anomalies have some winter to winter persistence due to the reemergence mechanism.
ENSO teleconnections, the atmospheric bridge[7]
ENSO can influence the global circulation pattern
thousands of kilometers away from the equatorial
Pacific through the "atmospheric bridge". During el
nino events deep convection and heat transfer to the
troposphere is enhanced over the anomalously warm
sea surface temperature, this ENSO related tropical
forcing generates Rossby waves that propagates
poleward and eastward and are subsequently refracted
back from the pole to the tropics. The planetary waves The atmospheric bridge during el nino
forms at preferred locations both in the North and
Pacific decadal oscillation 154

South Pacific Ocean and the teleconnection pattern is established within 2–6 weeks.[8] ENSO driven patterns modify
surface temperature,humidity, wind and the distribution of cloud over the North Pacific that alter surface heat,
momentum and freshwater fluxes and thus induce sea surface temperature,salinity and mixed layer depth (MLD)
The atmospheric bridge is more effective during boreal winter when the deepened Aleutian low results in stronger
and cold northwesterly winds over the central Pacific and warm/humid southerly winds along the North American
west coast, the associated changes in the surface heat fluxes and to a lesser extent Ekman transport creates negative
sea surface temperature anomalies and a deepened MLD in the central pacific and warm the ocean from the Hawaii
to the Bering Sea.
SST reemergence[9]

Reemergence mechanism in the North Pacific.

Mixed layer depth seasonal cycle.

Midlatitude SST anomaly patterns tend to recur from one winter to the next but not during the intervening summer,
this process occurs because of the strong mixed layer seasonal cycle. The mixed layer depth over the North Pacific is
deeper, typically 100-200m, in winter than it is in summer and thus SST anomalies that forms during winter and
extend to the base of the mixed layer are sequestered beneath the shallow summer mixed layer when it reforms in
late spring and are effectively insulated from the air-sea heat flux. When the mixed layer deepens again in the
following autumn/early winter the anomalies may influence again the surface. This process has been named
"reemergence mechanism" by Alexander and Deser[10] and is observed over much of the North Pacific Ocean
although is more effective in the west where the winter mixed layer is deeper and the seasonal cycle greater.
Stochastic atmospheric forcing[11]
Long term sea surface temperature variation may be induced by random atmospheric forcings that are integrated and
reddened into the ocean mixed layer. The stochastic climate model paradigm was proposed by Frankignoul and
Hasselmann,[12] in this model a stochastic forcing represented by the passage of storms alter the ocean mixed layer
temperature via surface energy fluxes and Ekman currents and the system is damped due to the enhanced (reduced)
heat loss to the atmosphere over the anomalously warm (cold) SST via turbulent energy and longwave radiative
fluxes, in the simple case of a linear negative feedback the model can be written as:

where v is the random atmospheric forcing, λ is the damping rate (positive and constant) and y is the response.
The variance spectrum of y is:
Pacific decadal oscillation 155

where F is the variance of the white noise forcing and w is the frequency, an implication of this equation is that at
short time scales (w>>λ) the variance of the ocean temperature increase with the square of the period while at longer
timescales(w<<λ, ~150 months) the damping process dominates and limits sea surface temperature anomalies so that
the spectra became white.
Thus an atmospheric white noise generates SST anomalies at much longer timescales but without spectral peaks.
Modeling studies suggest that this process contribute to as much as 1/3 of the PDO variability at decadal timescales.
Ocean dynamics
Several dynamic oceanic mechanisms and SST-air feedback may contribute to the observed decadal variability in the
North Pacific Ocean. SST variability is stronger in the Kuroshio Oyashio extension (KOE) region and is associated
with changes in the KOE axis and strength,[6] that generates decadal and longer time scales SST variance but without
the observed magnitude of the spectral peak at ~10 years, and SST-air feedback. Remote reemergence occurs in
regions of strong current such as the Kuroshio extension and the anomalies created near the Japan may reemerge the
next winter in the central pacific.
• Advective resonance
Saravanan and McWilliams[13] have demonstrated that the interaction between spatially coherent atmospheric
forcing patterns and an advective ocean shows periodicities at preferred time scales when non-local advective effects
dominates over the local sea surface temperature damping. This "advective resonance" mechanism may generate
decadal SST variability in the Eastern North Pacific associated with the anomalous Ekman advection and surface
heat flux.[14]
• North Pacific oceanic gyre circulation
Dynamic gyre adjustments are essential to generate decadal SST peaks in the North Pacific, the process occurs via
westward propagating oceanic Rossby waves that are forced by wind anomalies in the central and eastern Pacific
Ocean. The quasigeostrophic equation for long non-dispersive Rossby Waves forced by large scale wind stress can
be written as:[15]

where h is the upper-layer thickness anomaly, curl(τ) is the wind stress, c is the Rossby waves speed that depends on
latitudes, ρ0 is the density of sea water and f0 is the Coriolis parameter at a reference latitude. The response time
scale is set by the Rossby waves speed, the location of the wind forcing and the basin width, at the latitude of the
Kuroshio Extension c is 2.5 cm s−1 and the dynamic gyre adjustement timescale is ~(5)10 years if the Rossby wave
was initiated in the (central)eastern Pacific Ocean.
If the wind white forcing is zonally uniform it should generate a red spectrum in which h variance increase with the
period and reaches a constant amplitude at lower frequencies without decadal and interdecadal peaks, however low
frequencies atmospheric circulation tends to be dominated by fixed spatial patterns so that wind forcing is not
zonally uniform, if the wind forcing is zonally sinusoidal then decadal peaks occurs due to resonance of the forced
basin-scale Rossby waves.
The propagation of h anomalies in the western pacific changes the KOE axis and strength[6] and impact sst due to the
anomalous geostrophic heat transport. Recent studies[6] [16] suggest that Rossby waves excited by the Aleutian low
propagates the PDO signal from the North Pacific to the KOE through changes in the KOE axis while Rossby waves
associated with the NPO propagates the NPGO signal through changes in the KOE strength.
Pacific decadal oscillation 156

Reconstructions and Regime shifts

Observed monthly values for the PDO (1900–2010).

Reconstructed PDO (993-1996).

The PDO index has been reconstructed using tree rings and other hydrologically sensitive proxies from west North
America and Asia.[3] [17] [18]
MacDonald and Case[19] reconstructed the PDO back to 993 using tree rings from California and Alberta. The index
shows a 50-70 year periodicity but this is a strong mode of variability only after 1800, a persistent negative phase
occurred during medieval times (993-1300) which is consistent with la nina conditions reconstructed in the tropical
Pacific[20] and multi-century droughts in the South-West United States.[21]
Several regime shifts are apparent both in the reconstructions and instrumental data, during the 20th century regime
shifts associated with concurrent changes in SST, SLP, land precipitation and ocean cloud cover occurred in
1924/1925,1945/1946 and 1976/1977:[22]
• 1750: PDO displays an unusually strong oscillation.[3]
• 1924/1925: PDO changed to a "warm" phase.[22]
• 1945/1946: The PDO changed to a "cool" phase, the pattern of this regime shift is similar to the 1970s episode
with maximum amplitude in the subarctic and subtropical front but with a greater signature near the Japan while
the 1970s shift was stronger near the American west coast.[22] [23]
• 1976/1977: PDO changed to a "warm" phase.[24]
• 1988/1989:A weakening of the Aleutian low with associated SST changes was observed,[25] in contrast to others
regime shifts this change appears to be related to concurrent extratropical oscillation in the North Pacific and
North Atlantic rather than tropical processes.[26]
• 1997/1998: Several changes in Sea surface temperature and marine ecosystem occurred in the North Pacific after
1997/1998, in contrast to prevailing anomalies observed after the 1970s shift SST declined along the United
States west coast and substantial changes in the populations of salmon, anchovy and sardine were observed,[27]
however the spatial pattern of the SST change was different with a meridional SST seesaw in the central and
western Pacific that resemble a strong shift in the NPGO rather than the PDO structure, this pattern dominated
much of the North Pacific SST variability after 1989.[28]
Pacific decadal oscillation 157

NOAA's forecast [29] use a linear inverse modeling (LIM)[30] method to predict the PDO, LIM assumes that the
PDO can be separated into a linear deterministic component and a non-linear component represented by random
Much of the LIM PDO predictability arises from ENSO and the global trend rather than extra-tropical processes and
is thus limited to ~4 season, the prediction is consistent with the seasonal footprinting mechanism[31] in which an
optimal SST structure evolve into the ENSO mature phase 6–10 months later that subsequently impact the North
Pacific Ocean SST via the atmospheric bridge.
Skills in predicting decadal PDO variability could arise from taking into account the impact of the externally
forced[32] and internally generated[33] pacific variability.

Related patterns
• ENSO tends to lead PDO/IPO cycling.
• Shifts in the IPO change the location and strength of ENSO activity. The South Pacific Convergence Zone moves
northeast during El Niño and southwest during La Niña events. The same movement takes place during positive
IPO and negative IPO phases respectively. (Folland et al., 2002)
• Interdecadal temperature variations in China are closely related to those of the NAO and the NPO.
• The amplitudes of the NAO and NPO increased in the 1960s and interannual variation patterns changed from 3–4
years to 8–15 years.
• Sea level rise is affected when large areas of water warm and expand, or cool and contract.

[1] Mantua, Nathan J.; et al. (1997). "A Pacific interdecadal climate oscillation with impacts on salmon production" (http:/ / www. atmos.
washington. edu/ ~mantua/ abst. PDO. html). Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 78: 1069–1079.
doi:10.1175/1520-0477(1997)078<1069:APICOW>2.0.CO;2. .
[2] Newman, M.; Compo, G.P.; Alexander, Michael A. (2003). "ENSO-Forced Variability of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation". Journal of
Climate 16 (23): 3853–3857. doi:10.1175/1520-0442(2003)016<3853:EVOTPD>2.0.CO;2.
[3] Biondi, Franco; Gershunov, Alexander; Cayan, Daniel R. (2001). "North Pacific Decadal Climate Variability since 1661" (http:/ / www.
ngdc. noaa. gov/ paleo/ pubs/ biondi2001/ biondi2001. html). Journal of Climate 14 (1): 5–10.
doi:10.1175/1520-0442(2001)014<0005:NPDCVS>2.0.CO;2. .
[4] Vimont, Daniel J. (2005). "The Contribution of the Interannual ENSO Cycle to the Spatial Pattern of Decadal ENSO-Like Variability" (http:/
/ journals. ametsoc. org/ doi/ abs/ 10. 1175/ JCLI3365. 1). Journal of Climate 18 (12): 2080–2092. doi:10.1175/JCLI3365.1. . Retrieved
[5] Schneider, Niklas; Bruce D. Cornuelle (2005). "The Forcing of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation" (http:/ / journals. ametsoc. org/ doi/ abs/ 10.
1175/ JCLI3527. 1). Journal of Climate 18 (8): 4355–4372. doi:10.1175/JCLI3527.1. . Retrieved 2010-09-16.
[6] Qiu, Bo; Niklas Schneider, Shuiming Chen (2007). "Coupled Decadal Variability in the North Pacific: An Observationally Constrained
Idealized Model" (http:/ / journals. ametsoc. org/ doi/ full/ 10. 1175/ JCLI4190. 1). Journal of Climate 20 (14): 3602–3620.
doi:10.1175/JCLI4190.1. . Retrieved 2010-09-16.
[7] Alexander, Michael A; Ileana Bladé,Matthew Newman,John R. Lanzante,Ngar-Cheung Lau,James D. Scott (2002). "The Atmospheric
Bridge: The Influence of ENSO Teleconnections on Air–Sea Interaction over the Global Oceans" (http:/ / journals. ametsoc. org/ doi/ abs/ 10.
1175/ 1520-0442(2002)015<2205:TABTIO>2. 0. CO;2). Journal of Climate 15 (16): 2205–2231.
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[8] Liu, Zhengyu; Alexander Michael (2007). "Atmospheric bridge, oceanic tunnel,and global climate teleconnections." (http:/ / www. agu. org/
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doi:10.1029/2005RG000172. . Retrieved 2010-09-20.
[9] Deser, Clara; Michael A. Alexander, Michael S. Timlin (2003). "Understanding the Persistence of Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies in
Midlatitudes" (http:/ / journals. ametsoc. org/ doi/ abs/ 10. 1175/ 1520-0442(2003)016<0057:UTPOSS>2. 0. CO;2). Journal of Climate 16
(12): 57–72. doi:10.1175/1520-0442(2003)016<0057:UTPOSS>2.0.CO;2. . Retrieved 2010-09-20.
[10] Alexander, Michael A.; Deser Clara (1995). "A Mechanism for the Recurrence of Wintertime Midlatitude SST Anomalies" (http:/ / journals.
ametsoc. org/ doi/ abs/ 10. 1175/ 1520-0485(1995)025<0122:AMFTRO>2. 0. CO;2). Journal of Physical Oceanography 125 (1): 122–137.
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[11] Alexander, Michael A.; Penland, Cecile (1996). "Variability in a mixed layer ocean model driven by stochastic atmospheric forcing" (http:/ /
journals. ametsoc. org/ doi/ abs/ 10. 1175/ 1520-0442(1996)009<2424:VIAMLO>2. 0. CO;2). Journal of Climate 9 (10): 2424–2442.
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[12] Frankignoul, Claude; Hasselmann, Klaus (1977). "Stochastic climate models, Part II Application to sea-surface temperature anomalies and
thermocline variability" (http:/ / onlinelibrary. wiley. com/ doi/ 10. 1111/ j. 2153-3490. 1977. tb00740. x/ abstract). Tellus 24 (4): 289–305.
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[13] Saravanan, R.; McWilliams James C. (1998). "Advective Ocean–Atmosphere Interaction: An Analytical Stochastic Model with Implications
for Decadal Variability" (http:/ / journals. ametsoc. org/ doi/ abs/ 10. 1175/ 1520-0442(1998)011<0165:AOAIAA>2. 0. CO;2). Journal of
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[14] Wu, Lixin; Zhengyu Liu (2003). "Decadal Variability in the North Pacific: The Eastern North Pacific Mode" (http:/ / journals. ametsoc. org/
doi/ abs/ 10. 1175/ 1520-0442(2003)016<3111:DVITNP>2. 0. CO;2). Journal of Climate 16 (19): 3111–3131.
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[15] Jin, Fei-Fei (1997). "A Theory of Interdecadal Climate Variability of the North Pacific Ocean–Atmosphere System" (http:/ / journals.
ametsoc. org/ doi/ full/ 10. 1175/ 1520-0442(1997)010<1821:ATOICV>2. 0. CO;2). Journal of Climate 10 (8): 1821–1835.
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[16] Ceballos, Lina; Emanuele Di Lorenzo; Carlos D. Hoyos; Niklas Schneider; Bunmei Taguchi (2009). "North Pacific Gyre Oscillation
Synchronizes Climate Fluctuations in the Eastern and Western Boundary Systems" (http:/ / journals. ametsoc. org/ doi/ full/ 10. 1175/
1520-0442(1997)010<1821:ATOICV>2. 0. CO;2). Journal of Climate 22 (19): 5163–5174. doi:10.1175/2009JCLI2848.1. . Retrieved
[17] Shen, Caiming; Wei-Chyung Wang; Wei Gong; Zhixin Hao (2006). "A Pacific Decadal Oscillation record since 1470 AD reconstructed
from proxy data of summer rainfall over eastern China" (http:/ / www. agu. org/ journals/ ABS/ 2006/ 2005GL024804. shtml). Geophys. Res.
Lett. 33. Bibcode 2006GeoRL..3303702S. doi:10.1029/2005GL024804. . Retrieved 2010-10-26.
[18] D'arrigo, R.; Wilson R. (2006). "On the Asian Expression of the PDO." (http:/ / onlinelibrary. wiley. com/ doi/ 10. 1002/ joc. 1326/ abstract).
International Journal of Climatology 26: 1607–1617. doi:10.1002/joc.1326. . Retrieved 2010-10-26.
[19] MacDonald, G.M.; Case R.A. (2005). "Variations in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation over the past millennium" (http:/ / www. agu. org/
journals/ ABS/ 2005/ 2005GL022478. shtml). Geophys. Res. Lett. 32. Bibcode 2005GeoRL..3208703M. doi:10.1029/2005GL022478. .
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[20] Rein, Bert; Andreas Lückge; Frank Sirocko (2004). "AA major Holocene ENSO anomaly during the Medieval period" (http:/ / www. agu.
org/ journals/ ABS/ 2004/ 2004GL020161. shtml). Geophys. Res. Lett. 31. Bibcode 2004GeoRL..3117211R. doi:10.1029/2004GL020161. .
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[21] Seager, Richard; Graham, Nicholas; Herweijer, Celine; Gordon, Arnold L.; Kushnir, Yochanan; Cook, Ed (2007). "Blueprints for Medieval
hydroclimate". Quaternary Science Reviews 26 (19-21): 2322–2336. doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2007.04.020.
[22] Deser, Clara; Phillips, Adam S.; Hurrell, James W. (2004). "Pacific Interdecadal Climate Variability: Linkages between the Tropics and the
North Pacific during Boreal Winter since 1900." (http:/ / journals. ametsoc. org/ doi/ abs/ 10. 1175/ 1520-0442(2004)017<3109:PICVLB>2. 0.
CO;2). Journal of Climate 17 (15): 3109–3124. doi:10.1175/1520-0442(2004)017<3109:PICVLB>2.0.CO;2. . Retrieved 2010-10-26.
[23] Minobe, Shoshiro; Atsushi Maeda (2005). "A 1° monthly gridded sea-surface temperature dataset compiled from ICOADS from 1850 to
2002 and Northern Hemisphere frontal variability" (http:/ / onlinelibrary. wiley. com/ doi/ 10. 1002/ joc. 1170/ abstract). International Journal
of Climatology 25 (7): 881–894. doi:10.1002/joc.1170. . Retrieved 2010-10-26.
[24] Hare, Steven R.; Mantua, Nathan J. (2000). "Empirical evidence for North Pacific regime shifts in 1977 and 1989". Progress in
Oceanography 47 (2–4): 103–145. Bibcode 2000PrOce..47..103H. doi:10.1016/S0079-6611(00)00033-1.
[25] Trenberth, Kevin; Hurrell, James W. (1994). "Decadal atmosphere-ocean variations in the Pacific" (http:/ / www. springerlink. com/ content/
m5711482u6554132/ ). Climate Dynamics 9 (6): 303–319. Bibcode 1994ClDy....9..303T. doi:10.1007/BF00204745. . Retrieved 2010-10-26.
[26] Yasunaka, Sayaka; Kimio Hanawa (2003). "Regime Shifts in the Northern Hemisphere SST Field: Revisited in Relation to Tropical
Variations" (http:/ / www. jstage. jst. go. jp/ article/ jmsj/ 81/ 2/ 81_415/ _article/ -char/ en). Journal of the Meteorological Society of Japan 81
(2): 415–424. doi:10.2151/jmsj.81.415. . Retrieved 2010-10-26.
[27] Chavez, Francisco P; John Ryan, Salvador E. Lluch-Cota, Miguel Ñiquen C. (2003). "From Anchovies to Sardines and Back: Multidecadal
Change in the Pacific Ocean" (http:/ / www. sciencemag. org/ cgi/ content/ short/ 299/ 5604/ 217). Science 299: 217–221.
doi:10.1126/science.1075880. . Retrieved 2010-10-26.
[28] Bond, N.A.; J. E. Overland; M. Spillane; P. Stabeno (2003). "Recent shifts in the state of the North Pacific" (http:/ / europa. agu. org/ ?uri=/
journals/ gl/ gl0323/ 2003GL018597/ 2003GL018597. xml& view=article). Geophys. Res. Lett 30. Bibcode 2003GeoRL..30wCLM1B.
doi:10.1029/2003GL018597. . Retrieved 2010-10-26.
[29] http:/ / www. esrl. noaa. gov/ psd/ forecasts/ sstlim/ for1pdo. html
[30] Alexander, Michael A.; Ludmila Matrosova; Cécile Penland; James D. Scott; Ping Chang (2008). "Forecasting Pacific SSTs: Linear Inverse
Model Predictions of the PDO" (http:/ / journals. ametsoc. org/ doi/ abs/ 10. 1175/ 2007JCLI1849. 1). Journal of Climate 21 (2): 385–402.
doi:10.1175/2007JCLI1849.1. . Retrieved 2010-10-08.
[31] Vimont, Daniel J.; John M. Wallace; David S. Battisti (2003). "The Seasonal Footprinting Mechanism in the Pacific: Implications for
ENSO" (http:/ / journals. ametsoc. org/ doi/ abs/ 10. 1175/ 1520-0442(2003)016<2668:TSFMIT>2. 0. CO;2). Journal of Climate 16 (16):
2668–2675. doi:10.1175/1520-0442(2003)016<2668:TSFMIT>2.0.CO;2. . Retrieved 2010-10-08.
Pacific decadal oscillation 159

[32] Meehl, Gerard A.; Aixue Hu; Benjamin D. Santer (2009). "The Mid-1970s Climate Shift in the Pacific and the Relative Roles of Forced
versus Inherent Decadal Variability" (http:/ / journals. ametsoc. org/ doi/ abs/ 10. 1175/ 2008JCLI2552. 1). Journal of Climate 22 (3):
780–792. doi:10.1175/2008JCLI2552.1. . Retrieved 2010-10-08.
[33] Mochizuki, Takashi; Masayoshi Ishii; Masahide Kimoto; Yoshimitsu Chikamotoc; Masahiro Watanabec; Toru Nozawad; Takashi T.
Sakamotoa; Hideo Shiogamad; Toshiyuki Awajia; Nozomi Sugiuraa; Takahiro Toyodaa; Sayaka Yasunakac; Hiroaki Tatebea; Masato Moric
(2010). "Pacific decadal oscillation hindcasts relevant to near-term climate prediction" (http:/ / www. pnas. org/ content/ 107/ 5/ 1833. full).
PNAS 107 (5): 1833–1837. doi:10.1073/pnas.0906531107. . Retrieved 2010-10-08.

Further reading
• LI Chongyin, HE Jinhai, ZHU Jinhong (2004). "A Review of Decadal/Interdecadal Climate Variation Studies in
China". Advances in Atmospheric Sciences 21 (3): 425–436. doi:10.1007/BF02915569.
• C. K. Folland, J. A. Renwick, M. J. Salinger, A. B. Mullan (2002). "Relative influences of the Interdecadal
Pacific Oscillation and ENSO in the South Pacific Convergence Zone" (
2002/2001GL014201.shtml). Geophysical Research Letters 29 (13): 21–1–21–4.
Bibcode 2002GeoRL..29m..21F. doi:10.1029/2001GL014201.
• Steven R. Hare and Nathan J. Mantua, 2001. An historical narrative on the Pacific Decadal Oscillation,
interdecadal climate variability and ecosystem impacts, Report of a talk presented at the 20th NE Pacific Pink and
Chum workshop, Seattle, WA, 22 March 2001. (
• Nathan J. Mantua and Steven R. Hare, 2002. The Pacific Decadal Oscillation, Journal of Oceanography, Vol. 58,
p. 35–44. doi:10.1023/A:1015820616384 (
• Kevin Ho, 2005. Salmon-omics: Effect of Pacific Decadal Oscillation on Alaskan Chinook Harvests and Market
Price. Columbia University. (

External links
• "The Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO)" ( JISAO. Retrieved
February 13, 2005.
• "Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO)" ( JPL SCIENCE - PDO.
Retrieved February 13, 2005.
Milankovitch cycles 160

Milankovitch cycles
Milankovitch Theory describes the collective effects of changes
in the Earth's movements upon its climate, named after Serbian
civil engineer and mathematician Milutin Milanković, who
worked on it during First World War internment. Milanković
mathematically theorised that variations in eccentricity, axial tilt,
and precession of the Earth's orbit determined climatic patterns on

The Earth's axis completes one full cycle of precession

approximately every 26,000 years. At the same time the elliptical
orbit rotates more slowly. The combined effect of the two
precessions leads to a 21,000-year period between the seasons and
the orbit. In addition, the angle between Earth's rotational axis and
the normal to the plane of its orbit (obliquity) oscillates between
Past and future Milankovitch cycles. VSOP allows
22.1 and 24.5 degrees on a 41,000-year cycle. It is currently 23.44
prediction of past and future orbital parameters with
degrees and decreasing. great accuracy. ε is obliquity (axial tilt). e is
eccentricity. ϖ is longitude of perihelion. esin(ϖ) is the
Other astronomical theories were advanced by Joseph Adhemar,
precession index, which together with obliquity,
James Croll and others, but verification was difficult due to the
controls the seasonal cycle of insolation. is the
absence of reliably dated evidence and doubts as to exactly which
calculated daily-averaged insolation at the top of the
periods were important. Not until the advent of deep-ocean cores atmosphere, on the day of the summer solstice at 65 N
and a seminal paper by Hays, Imbrie, and Shackleton, "Variations latitude. Benthic forams and Vostok ice core show two
in the Earth's Orbit: Pacemaker of the Ice Ages", in Science distinct proxies for past global sealevel and
temperature, from ocean sediment and Antarctic ice
(1976)[1] did the theory attain its present state.
respectively. Vertical gray line is current conditions, at
2 ky A.D.

Earth’s movements
As the Earth spins around its axis and orbits around the Sun, several quasi-periodic variations occur. Although the
curves have a large number of sinusoidal components, a few components are dominant.[2] Milankovitch studied
changes in the orbital eccentricity, obliquity, and precession of Earth's movements. Such changes in movement and
orientation change the amount and location of solar radiation reaching the Earth. This is known as solar forcing (an
example of radiative forcing). Changes near the north polar area, about 65 degrees North, are considered important
due to the great amount of land, which reacts to such changes quicker than the oceans do. Land masses respond to
temperature change more quickly than oceans which self cool by mixing of surface and deep water, the movement of
cool and warm currents and suface evaporation, and the fact that the specific heat of solids is generally lower than
that of water (i.e., it takes a smaller change in the amount of heat a given mass of a solid contains to change its
temperature by the same number of degrees than it would take to change the same mass of water's temperature by the
same number of degrees.)
Milankovitch cycles 161

Orbital shape (eccentricity)

Circular orbit, no eccentricity. Orbit with 0.5 eccentricity.

The Earth's orbit is an ellipse. The eccentricity is a measure of the departure of this ellipse from circularity. The
shape of the Earth's orbit varies in time between nearly circular (low eccentricity of 0.005) and mildly elliptical (high
eccentricity of 0.058) with the mean eccentricity of 0.028. The major component of these variations occurs on a
period of 413,000 years (eccentricity variation of ±0.012). A number of other terms vary between components
95,000 and 125,000 years (with a beat period 400,000 years), and loosely combine into a 100,000-year cycle
(variation of −0.03 to +0.02). The present eccentricity is 0.017.
If the Earth were the only planet orbiting our Sun, the eccentricity of its orbit would not perceptibly vary even over a
period of a million years. The Earth's eccentricity varies primarily due to interactions with the gravitational fields of
Jupiter and Saturn. As the eccentricity of the orbit evolves, the semi-major axis of the orbital ellipse remains
unchanged. From the perspective of the perturbation theory used in celestial mechanics to compute the evolution of
the orbit, the semi-major axis is an adiabatic invariant. According to Kepler's third law the period of the orbit is
determined by the semi-major axis. It follows that the Earth's orbital period, the length of a sidereal year, also
remains unchanged as the orbit evolves. As the semi-minor axis is decreased with the eccentricity increase, the
seasonal changes increase.[3] But the mean solar irradiation for the planet changes only slightly for small
eccentricity, due to Kepler's second law.
The same average irradiation does not correspond to the average of corresponding temperatures (due to non-linearity
of the Stefan–Boltzmann law). For an irradiation with corresponding temperature 20°C and its symmetric variation
±50% (e.g. from the seasons change[4] ) we obtain asymmetric variation of corresponding temperatures with their
average 16°C (i.e. deviation −4°C). And for the irradiation variation during a day (with its average corresponding
also to 20°C) we obtain the average temperature (for zero thermal capacity) -113°C.
The relative increase in solar irradiation at closest approach to the Sun (perihelion) compared to the irradiation at the
furthest distance (aphelion) is slightly larger than 4 times the eccentricity. For the current orbital eccentricity this
amounts to a variation in incoming solar radiation of about 6.8%, while the current difference between perihelion
and aphelion is only 3.4% (5.1 million km). Perihelion presently occurs around January 3, while aphelion is around
July 4. When the orbit is at its most elliptical, the amount of solar radiation at perihelion will be about 23% more
than at aphelion.
Milankovitch cycles 162

Season (Northern Hemisphere)

data from United States Naval Observatory

Year Date: GMT Season Duration

2005 Winter Solstice 12/21/2005 18:35 88.99 days

2006 Spring Equinox 3/20/2006 18:26 92.75 days

2006 Summer Solstice 6/21/2006 12:26 93.65 days

2006 Autumn Equinox 9/23/2006 4:03 89.85 days

2006 Winter Solstice 12/22/2006 0:22 88.99 days

2007 Spring Equinox 3/21/2007 0:07 92.75 days

2007 Summer Solstice 6/21/2007 18:06 93.66 days

2007 Autumn Equinox 9/23/2007 9:51 89.85 days

2007 Winter Solstice 12/22/2007 06:08

Orbital mechanics requires that the length of the seasons be proportional to the areas of the seasonal quadrants, so
when the eccentricity is extreme, the seasons on the far side of the orbit can be substantially longer in duration.
When autumn and winter occur at closest approach, as is the case currently in the northern hemisphere, the earth is
moving at its maximum velocity and therefore autumn and winter are slightly shorter than spring and summer. Thus,
summer in the northern hemisphere is 4.66 days longer than winter and spring is 2.9 days longer than autumn.

Axial tilt (obliquity)

The angle of the Earth's axial tilt (obliquity of the ecliptic) varies with
respect to the plane of the Earth's orbit. These slow 2.4° obliquity
variations are roughly periodic, taking approximately 41,000 years to
shift between a tilt of 22.1° and 24.5° and back again. When the
obliquity increases, the amplitude of the seasonal cycle in insolation
increases, with summers in both hemispheres receiving more radiative
flux from the Sun, and the winters less radiative flux.

But these changes of opposite sign in the summer and winter are not of
the same magnitude. The annual mean insolation increases in high
latitudes with increasing obliquity, while lower latitudes experience a
reduction in insolation. Cooler summers are suspected of encouraging
22.1-24.5° range of Earth's obliquity.
the start of an ice age by melting less of the previous winter's ice and
snow. So can it be argued that lower obliquity favors ice ages both
because of the mean insolation reduction in high latitudes as well as the additional reduction in summer insolation.
However no significant climate changes are associated with extreme axial tilts.
Scientists using computer models to study more extreme tilts than those that actually occur have concluded that
climate extremes at high obliquity would be particularly threatening to advanced forms of life that presently exist on
Earth. They noted that high obliquity would not likely sterilize a planet completely, but would make it harder for
fragile, warm-blooded land-based life to thrive as it does today.[6]
Currently the Earth is tilted at 23.44 degrees from its orbital plane, roughly halfway between its extreme values. The
tilt is in the decreasing phase of its cycle, and will reach its minimum value around the year 10,000 CE. This trend,
by itself, would tend to make winters warmer and summers colder; however increases in greenhouse gases may
Milankovitch cycles 163

overpower this effect.

Axial precession
Precession is the trend in the direction of the Earth's axis of rotation
relative to the fixed stars, with a period of roughly 26,000 years. This
gyroscopic motion is due to the tidal forces exerted by the sun and the
moon on the solid Earth, which has the shape of an oblate spheroid
rather than a sphere. The sun and moon contribute roughly equally to
this effect.

When the axis points toward the Sun in perihelion, one polar
hemisphere has a greater difference between the seasons while the
other has milder seasons. The hemisphere that is in summer at
perihelion receives much of the corresponding increase in solar
radiation, but that same hemisphere in winter at aphelion has a colder
winter. The other hemisphere will have a relatively warmer winter and
cooler summer.
Precessional movement.
When the Earth's axis is aligned such that aphelion and perihelion
occur near the equinoxes, the Northern and Southern Hemispheres will have similar contrasts in the seasons.
At present, perihelion occurs during the southern hemisphere's summer, and aphelion is reached during the southern
winter. Thus the southern hemisphere seasons are somewhat more extreme than the northern hemisphere seasons,
when other factors are equal.

Apsidal precession
In addition, the orbital ellipse itself
precesses in space, primarily as a result of
interactions with Jupiter and Saturn. This
orbital precession is in the same sense to the
gyroscopic motion of the axis of rotation,
shortening the period of the precession of
the equinoxes with respect to the perihelion
from 25,771.5 to ~21,636 years.

Orbital inclination
The inclination of Earth's orbit drifts up and
down relative to its present orbit with a
cycle having a period of about 70,000 years.
Milankovitch did not study this
three-dimensional movement. This
movement is known as "precession of the
Planets orbiting the Sun follow elliptical (oval) orbits that rotate gradually over
ecliptic" or "planetary precession".
time (apsidal precession). The eccentricity of this ellipse is exaggerated for
visualization. Most orbits in the Solar System have a much smaller eccentricity,
making them nearly circular.
Milankovitch cycles 164

More recent researchers noted this drift

and that the orbit also moves relative to
the orbits of the other planets. The
invariable plane, the plane that
represents the angular momentum of
the solar system, is approximately the
orbital plane of Jupiter. The inclination
of the Earth's orbit has a 100,000 year
cycle relative to the invariable plane,
this is very similar to the 100,000 year
eccentricity period. This 100,000-year
cycle closely matches the 100,000-year
pattern of ice ages.

It has been proposed that a disk of dust

and other debris exists in the invariable
Effects of apsidal precession on the seasons
plane, and this affects the Earth's
climate through several possible
means. The Earth presently moves through this plane around January 9 and July 9, when there is an increase in
radar-detected meteors and meteor-related noctilucent clouds.[7] [8]

A study of the chronology of Antarctic ice cores using oxygen-nitrogen ratios in air bubbles trapped in the ice, which
appear to respond directly to the local insolation, concluded that the climatic response documented in the ice cores
was driven by northern hemisphere insolation as proposed by the Milankovitch hypothesis (Kawamura et al., Nature,
23 August 2007, vol 448, p912-917). This is an additional validation of the Milankovitch hypothesis by a relatively
novel method, and is inconsistent with the "inclination" theory of the 100,000-year cycle.

Because the observed periodicities of climate fit so well with the orbital periods, the orbital theory has overwhelming
support. Nonetheless, there are several difficulties in reconciling theory with observations.

100,000-year problem
The 100,000-year problem is that the eccentricity
variations have a significantly smaller impact on solar
forcing than precession or obliquity and hence might be
expected to produce the weakest effects. However,
observations show that during the last 1 million years, the
strongest climate signal is the 100,000-year cycle. In
addition, despite the relatively great 100,000-year cycle,
some have argued that the length of the climate record is
insufficient to establish a statistically significant
relationship between climate and eccentricity
[9] The nature of sediments can vary in a cyclic fashion, and these
variations. Some models can however reproduce the
cycles can be displayed in the sedimentary record. Here, cycles
100,000 year cycles as a result of non-linear interactions
can be observed in the colouration and resistance of different
between small changes in the Earth's orbit and internal strata
oscillations of the climate system.[10] [11]
Milankovitch cycles 165

400,000-year problem
The 400,000-year problem is that the eccentricity variations have a strong 400,000-year cycle. That cycle is only
clearly present in climate records older than the last million years. If the 100ka variations are having such a strong
effect, the 400ka variations might also be expected to be apparent. This is also known as the stage 11 problem, after
the interglacial in marine isotopic stage 11 which would be unexpected if the 400,000-year cycle has an impact on
climate. The relative absence of this periodicity in the marine isotopic record may be due, at least in part, to the
response times of the climate system components involved—in particular, the carbon cycle.

Stage 5 problem
The stage 5 problem refers to the timing of the penultimate interglacial (in marine isotopic stage 5) which appears to
have begun ten thousand years in advance of the solar forcing hypothesized to have caused it (the causality

Effect exceeds cause

The effects of these variations are primarily believed to
be due to variations in the intensity of solar radiation
upon various parts of the globe. Observations show
climate behavior is much more intense than the
calculated variations. Various internal characteristics of
climate systems are believed to be sensitive to the
insolation changes, causing amplification (positive
feedback) and damping responses (negative feedback).

The unsplit peak problem

The unsplit peak problem refers to the fact that 420,000 years of ice core data from Vostok, Antarctica research
eccentricity has cleanly resolved variations at both the station.

95 and 125ka periods. A sufficiently long, well-dated

record of climate change should be able to resolve both frequencies,[12] but some researchers interpret climate
records of the last million years as showing only a single spectral peak at 100ka periodicity. It is debatable whether
the quality of existing data ought to be sufficient to resolve both frequencies over the last million years.

The transition problem

The transition problem refers to the
switch in the frequency of climate
variations 1 million years ago. From
1–3 million years, climate had a
dominant mode matching the 41ka
cycle in obliquity. After 1 million
years ago, this switchd to a 100ka
variation matching eccentricity, for
Variations of Cyle Times, curves determined from ocean sediments
which no reason has been established.
Milankovitch cycles 166

Identifying dominant factor

Milankovich himself believed that reductions in summer insolation in northern high latitudes was the dominant
factor leading to glaciation, which led to him (incorrectly) deducing an approximate 41kyr period for ice ages.[13]
Subsequent research has shown that the 100kyr eccentricity cycle is more important, resulting in 100,000-year ice
age cycles of the Quaternary glaciation over the last few million years.

Theory incomplete
The Milankovitch theory of climate change is not perfectly worked out; in particular, the greatest observed response
is at the 100,000-year timescale, but the forcing is apparently small at this scale, in regard to the ice ages.[14] Various
explanations for this discrepancy have been proposed, including frequency modulation[15] or various feedbacks
(from carbon dioxide, cosmic rays, or from ice sheet dynamics).

Present and future conditions

As mentioned above, at present,
perihelion occurs during the southern
hemisphere's summer and aphelion
during the southern winter. Thus the
southern hemisphere seasons should
tend to be somewhat more extreme Past and future of daily average insolation at top of the atmosphere on the day of the
than the northern hemisphere seasons. summer solstice, at 65 N latitude. The green curve is with eccentricity e hypothetically set
The relatively low eccentricity of the to 0. The red curve uses the actual (predicted) value of e. Blue dot is current conditions, at
2 ky AD
present orbit results in a 6.8%
difference in the amount of solar
radiation during summer in the two hemispheres.
Since orbital variations are predictable,[16] if one has a model that relates orbital variations to climate, it is possible to
run such a model forward to "predict" future climate. Two caveats are necessary: that anthropogenic effects may
modify or even overwhelm orbital effects and that the mechanism by which orbital forcing influences climate is not
well understood.
The amount of solar radiation (insolation) in the Northern Hemisphere at 65° N seems to be related to occurrence of
an ice age. Astronomical calculations show that 65° N summer insolation should increase gradually over the next
25,000 years. A regime of eccentricity lower than the current value will last for about the next 100,000 years.
Changes in northern hemisphere summer insolation will be dominated by changes in obliquity ε. No declines in 65°
N summer insolation, sufficient to cause a glacial period, are expected in the next 50,000 years.
An often-cited 1980 study by Imbrie and Imbrie determined that, "Ignoring anthropogenic and other possible sources
of variation acting at frequencies higher than one cycle per 19,000 years, this model predicts that the long-term
cooling trend which began some 6,000 years ago will continue for the next 23,000 years."[17]
More recent work by Berger and Loutre suggests that the current warm climate may last another 50,000 years.[18]
The best chances for a decline in northern hemisphere summer insolation that would be sufficient for triggering a
glacial period is at 130,000 years or possibly as far out at 620,000 years.[19]
Milankovitch cycles 167

[1] Hays, J.D.; Imbrie, J.; Shackleton, N.J. (1976). "Variations in the Earth's Orbit: Pacemaker of the Ice Ages". Science 194 (4270): 1121–1132.
doi:10.1126/science.194.4270.1121. PMID 17790893.
[2] Girkin, Amy Negich (2005) (PDF). A Computational Study on the Evolution of the Dynamics of the Obliquity of the Earth (http:/ / etd.
ohiolink. edu/ send-pdf. cgi/ Girkin, Amy Negich. pdf?miami1133292203) (Master of Science thesis). Miami University. .
[3] Berger A., Loutre M.F., Mélice J.L. (2006). "Equatorial insolation: from precession harmonics to eccentricity frequencies" (http:/ / www.
clim-past-discuss. net/ 2/ 519/ 2006/ cpd-2-519-2006. pdf) (PDF). Clim. Past Discuss. 2 (4): 519–533. doi:10.5194/cpd-2-519-2006. .
[4] "Deliverables of IEA SHC - Task 26: Solar Combisystems" (PDF).
[5] http:/ / aa. usno. navy. mil/ data/ docs/ EarthSeasons. php
[6] Williams, D.M., Pollard, P. (2002). "Earth-like worlds on eccentric orbits: excursions beyond the habitable zone" (http:/ / physics. bd. psu.
edu/ faculty/ williams/ 3DEarthClimate/ ija2003. pdf). Inter. J. Astrobio. 1: 21–9. .
[7] Richard A Muller, Gordon J MacDonald (1997). "Glacial Cycles and Astronomical Forcing". Science 277 (1997/07/11): 215–8.
[8] "Origin of the 100 kyr Glacial Cycle: eccentricity or orbital inclination?" (http:/ / muller. lbl. gov/ papers/ nature. html). Richard A Muller. .
Retrieved March 2, 2005.
[9] Wunsch, Carl (2004). "Quantitative estimate of the Milankovitch-forced contribution to observed Quaternary climate change". Quaternary
Science Reviews 23 (9–10): 1001–12. doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2004.02.014.
[10] Ghil, Michael (1994). "Cryothermodynamics: the chaotic dynamics of paleoclimate". Physica D 77 (1–3): 130–159.
[11] Gildor H, Tziperman E (2000). "Sea ice as the glacial cycles' climate switch: Role of seasonal and orbital forcing". Paleoceanography 15
(6): 605–615. Bibcode 2000PalOc..15..605G. doi:10.1029/1999PA000461.
[12] Zachos JC, Shackleton NJ, Revenaugh JS, Pälike H, Flower BP (April 2001). "Climate response to orbital forcing across the
Oligocene-Miocene boundary" (http:/ / www. scencemag. org/ cgi/ pmidlookup?view=long& pmid=11303100). Science 292 (5515): 27–48.
doi:10.1126/science.1058288. PMID 11303100. .
[13] Imbrie and Imbrie; Ice Ages, solving the mystery, p 158
[14] Milankovitch, Milutin (1998) [1941]. Canon of Insolation and the Ice Age Problem. Belgrade: Zavod za Udz̆benike i Nastavna Sredstva.
ISBN 8617066199.; see also "Astronomical Theory of Climate Change" (http:/ / www. ncdc. noaa. gov/ paleo/ milankovitch. html). .
[15] http:/ / www. geolab. unc. edu/ faculty/ rial/ GPCRial2. pdf
[16] F. Varadi, B. Runnegar, M. Ghil (2003). "Successive Refinements in Long-Term Integrations of Planetary Orbits" (http:/ / astrobiology.
ucla. edu/ OTHER/ SSO/ SolarSysInt. pdf) (PDF). The Astrophysical Journal 592: 620–630. Bibcode 2003ApJ...592..620V.
doi:10.1086/375560. .
[17] J Imbrie, J Z Imbrie (1980). "Modeling the Climatic Response to Orbital Variations". Science 207 (1980/02/29): 943–953.
doi:10.1126/science.207.4434.943. PMID 17830447.
[18] Berger A, Loutre MF (2002). "Climate: An exceptionally long interglacial ahead?". Science 297 (5585): 1287–8.
doi:10.1126/science.1076120. PMID 12193773.
[19] http:/ / amper. ped. muni. cz/ gw/ articles/ html. format/ orb_forc. html

Further reading
• Roe G (2006). "In defense of Milankovitch". Geophysical Research Letters 33 (24): L24703.
Bibcode 2006GeoRL..3324703R. doi:10.1029/2006GL027817. This shows that Milankovitch theory fits the data
extremely well, over the past million years, provided that we consider derivatives.
• Zachos J, Pagani M, Sloan L, Thomas E, Billups K (2001). "Trends, Rhythms, and Aberrations in Global Climate
65 Ma to Present". Science 292 (5517): 686–693. doi:10.1126/science.1059412. PMID 11326091.
This review article discusses cycles and great-scale changes in the global climate during the Cenozoic Era.
Milankovitch cycles 168

External links
• Milankovitch Cycles and Glaciation (
• The Milankovitch band (
overpe00/node6.html), Internet Archive of American Geophysical Union lecture
• Some history of the adoption of the Milankovitch hypothesis (and an alternative) (
• More detail on orbital obliquity also matching climate patterns (
• Graph of variation in insolation (
Note 20,000 year, 100,000 year, and 400,000 year cycles are clearly visible.
• "Milutin Milankovitch" ( On the
Shoulders of Giants. Retrieved January 15, 2010.
• Potential Problems with Milankovitch Theory ( by Sean
Pitman (
• The Seasons (
• The NOAA page on Climate Forcing Data ( includes
(calculated) data on orbital variations over the last 50 million years and for the coming 20 million years.
• The orbital simulations by Varadi, Ghil and Runnegar (2003) (
provide another, slightly different series for orbital eccentricity, and also a series for orbital inclination
• ABC: Earth wobbles linked to extinctions (

Orbital forcing
Orbital forcing is the effect on climate of slow changes in the tilt of the Earth's axis and shape of the orbit (see
Milankovitch cycles). These orbital changes change the total amount of sunlight reaching the Earth by up to 25% at
mid-latitudes (from 400 to 500 Wm−2 at latitudes of 60 degrees). In this context, the term "forcing" signifies a
physical process that affects the Earth's climate.
This mechanism is believed to be responsible for the timing of the ice age cycles. A strict application of the
Milankovitch theory does not allow the prediction of a "sudden" ice age (rapid being anything under a century or
two), since the fastest orbital period is about 20,000 years. The timing of past glacial periods coincides very well
with the predictions of the Milankovitch theory, and these effects can be calculated into the future.
Orbital forcing 169

It is sometimes asserted that the length of the current interglacial
temperature peak will be similar to the length of the preceding
interglacial peak (Sangamonian/Eem Stage), and that therefore we
might be nearing the end of this warm period. However, this
conclusion is probably mistaken: the lengths of previous interglacials
were not particularly regular (see graphic at right). Berger and Loutre
(2002) argue that “with or without human perturbations, the current
warm climate may last another 50,000 years. The reason is a minimum
in the eccentricity of Earth's orbit around the Sun.”[1] Also, Archer and
Ice core data. Note length of glacial cycles
Ganopolski (2005) report that probable future CO2 emissions may be
averages ~100,000 years. Blue curve is
enough to suppress the glacial cycle for the next 500 kyr.[2] temperature, green curve is CO2, and red curve is
windblown glacial dust (loess). Today's date is on
Note in the graphic the strong 100,000 year periodicity of the cycles,
the left side of the graph.
and the striking asymmetry of the curves. This asymmetry is believed
to result from complex interactions of feedback mechanisms. It has
been observed that ice ages deepen by progressive steps, but the recovery to interglacial conditions occurs in one big
Orbital mechanics require that the length of the seasons be proportional to the swept areas of the seasonal quadrants,
so when the eccentricity is extreme, the seasons on the far side of the orbit can last substantially longer. Today, when
autumn and winter in the northern hemisphere occur at closest approach, the earth is moving at its maximum velocity
and therefore autumn and winter are slightly shorter than spring and summer.
Today, northern hemisphere summer is
4.66 days longer than winter and
spring is 2.9 days longer than
autumn.[3] As axial precession changes
the place in the Earth's orbit where the
solstices and equinoxes occur,
Northern hemisphere winters will get
longer and summers will get shorter,
eventually creating conditions believed
to be favorable for triggering the next glacial period.

The arrangements of land masses on the Earth's surface are believed to reinforce the orbital forcing effects.
Comparisons of plate tectonic continent reconstructions and paleoclimatic studies show that the Milankovitch cycles
have the greatest effect during geologic eras when landmasses have been concentrated in polar regions, as is the case
today. Greenland, Antarctica, and the northern portions of Europe, Asia, and North America are situated such that a
minor change in solar energy will tip the balance between year-round snow/ice preservation and complete summer
melting. The presence of snow and ice is a well-understood positive feedback mechanism for climate.
Orbital forcing 170

[1] Berger, A.; Loutre, M. F. (2002). "An Exceptionally Long Interglacial Ahead?". Science 297 (5585): 1287–1288.
doi:10.1126/science.1076120. PMID 12193773.
[2] Archer, David; Ganopolski, Andrey (2005). "A Movable Trigger: Fossil Fuel CO2 And The Onset Of The Next Glaciation". Geochemistry
Geophysics Geosystems 6: Q05003. doi:10.1029/2004GC000891.
[3] Benson, Gregory (2007-12-11). "Global Warming, Ice Ages, and Sea Level Changes: Something new or an astronomical phenomenon
occurring in present day?" (https:/ / sites. google. com/ site/ bensonfamilyhomepage/ Home/ ice-age-and-global-warming). .

Further reading
• Hays, J. D.; Imbrie, John; Shackleton, N. J. (1976). "Variations in the Earth's Orbit: Pacemaker of the Ice Ages".
Science 194 (4270): 1121–1132. doi:10.1126/science.194.4270.1121. PMID 17790893.
• Hays, James D. (1996). Schneider, Stephen H.. ed. Encyclopedia of Weather and Climate. New York: Oxford
University Press. pp. 507–508. ISBN 0195094859.
• Lutgens, Frederick K.; Tarbuck, Edward J. (1998). The Atmosphere. An Introduction to Meteorology. Upper
Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice-Hall. ISBN 0137429746.
• National Research Council (1982). Solar Variability, Weather, and Climate. Washington, D.C.: National
Academy Press. p. 7. ISBN 0309032849.

External links
• The NOAA page on Climate Forcing Data ( includes
(calculated) data on orbital variations over the last 50 million years and for the coming 20 million years
• The orbital simulations by Varadi, Ghil and Runnegar (2003) (
provide another, slightly different series for orbital eccentricity

Solar variation
Solar variation is the change in the amount of
radiation emitted by the Sun and in its spectral
distribution over years to millennia. These
variations have periodic components, the main
one being the approximately 11-year solar cycle
(or sunspot cycle). The changes also have
aperiodic fluctuations.[1] In recent decades, solar
activity has been measured by satellites, while
before it was estimated using 'proxy' variables.
Scientists studying climate change are interested
in understanding the effects of variations in the
total and spectral solar irradiance on Earth and
One composite of the last 30 years of solar variability
its climate.

Variations in total solar irradiance were too small to detect with technology available before the satellite era,
although the small fraction in ultra-violet light varies by a few percent. Total solar output is now measured to vary
(over the last three 11-year sunspot cycles) by approximately 0.1%[2] [3] [4] or about 1.3 Watts per square meter
(W/m2) peak-to-trough during the 11-year sunspot cycle. The amount of solar radiation received at the outer surface
of Earth's atmosphere averages 1366 W/m2.[5] [6] [7] There are no direct measurements of the longer-term variation,
and interpretations of proxy measures of variations differ. The intensity of solar radiation reaching Earth has been
Solar variation 171

relatively constant through the last 2000 years, with variations of around 0.1-0.2%.[8] [9] [10] Solar variation, together
with volcanic activity probably contributed to climate change, for example during the Maunder Minimum. However,
changes in solar brightness are too weak to explain recent climate change.[11]

History of study into solar variations

The longest recorded aspect of solar
variations are changes in sunspots. The
first record of sunspots dates to around
800 BC in China and the oldest
surviving drawing of a sunspot dates to
1128. In 1610, astronomers began
using the telescope to make
observations of sunspots and their
motions. Initial study was focused on
their nature and behavior.[12] Although 400 year history of sunspot numbers.

the physical aspects of sunspots were

not identified until the 20th century, observations continued. Study was hampered during the 17th century due to the
low number of sunspots during what is now recognized as an extended period of low solar activity, known as the
Maunder Minimum. By the 19th century, there was a long enough record of sunspot numbers to infer periodic cycles
in sunspot activity. In 1845, Princeton University professors Joseph Henry and Stephen Alexander observed the Sun
with a thermopile and determined that sunspots emitted less radiation than surrounding areas of the Sun. The
emission of higher than average amounts of radiation later were observed from the solar faculae.[13]

Around 1900, researchers began to explore connections between solar variations and weather on Earth. Of particular
note is the work of Charles Greeley Abbot. Abbot was assigned by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
(SAO) to detect changes in the radiation of the Sun. His team had to begin by inventing instruments to measure solar
radiation. Later, when Abbot was head of the SAO, it established a solar station at Calama, Chile to complement its
data from Mount Wilson Observatory. He detected 27 harmonic periods within the 273-month Hale cycles, including
7, 13, and 39 month patterns. He looked for connections to weather by means such as matching opposing solar trends
during a month to opposing temperature and precipitation trends in cities. With the advent of dendrochronology,
scientists such as Waldo S. Glock attempted to connect variation in tree growth to periodic solar variations in the
extant record and infer long-term secular variability in the solar constant from similar variations in millennial-scale
Statistical studies that correlate weather and climate with solar activity have been popular for centuries, dating back
at least to 1801, when William Herschel noted an apparent connection between wheat prices and sunspot records.[15]
They now often involve high-density global datasets compiled from surface networks and weather satellite
observations and/or the forcing of climate models with synthetic or observed solar variability to investigate the
detailed processes by which the effects of solar variations propagate through the Earth's climate system.[16]

Solar activity and irradiance measurement

Direct irradiance measurements have only been available during the last three cycles and are based on a composite of
many different observing satellites.[17] [18] However, the correlation between irradiance measurements and other
proxies of solar activity make it reasonable to estimate past solar activity. Most important among these proxies is the
record of sunspot observations that has been recorded since ~1610. Since sunspots and associated faculae are directly
responsible for small changes in the brightness of the sun, they are closely correlated to changes in solar output.
Direct measurements of radio emissions from the Sun at 10.7 cm also provide a proxy of solar activity that can be
Solar variation 172

measured from the ground since the Earth's atmosphere is transparent at this wavelength. Lastly, solar flares are a
type of solar activity that can impact human life on Earth by affecting electrical systems, especially satellites. Flares
usually occur in the presence of sunspots, and hence the two are correlated, but flares themselves make only tiny
perturbations of the solar luminosity.
Recently, it has been claimed that the total solar irradiance is varying in ways that are not duplicated by changes in
sunspot observations or radio emissions. However, this conclusion is disputed. Some believe that shifts in irradiance
may be the result of calibration problems in the measuring satellites.[19] [20] These speculations also admit the
possibility that a small long-term trend might exist in solar irradiance.[21]

Sunspots are relatively dark areas on the
radiating 'surface' (photosphere) of the Sun
where intense magnetic activity inhibits
convection and cools the photosphere.
Faculae are slightly brighter areas that form
around sunspot groups as the flow of energy
to the photosphere is re-established and both
the normal flow and the sunspot-blocked
energy elevate the radiating 'surface'
temperature. Scientists have speculated on
possible relationships between sunspots and
solar luminosity since the historical sunspot
area record began in the 17th century.[22] [23] Graph showing proxies of solar activity, including changes in sunspot number and
Correlations are now known to exist with cosmogenic isotope production.

decreases in luminosity caused by sunspots

(generally < - 0.3 %) and increases (generally < + 0.05 %) caused both by faculae that are associated with active
regions as well as the magnetically active 'bright network'.[24] Modulation of the solar luminosity by magnetically
active regions was confirmed by satellite measurements of total solar irradiance (TSI) by the ACRIM1 experiment
on the Solar Maximum Mission (launched in 1980).[24] The modulations were later confirmed in the results of the
ERB experiment launched on the Nimbus 7 satellite in 1978.[25] Sunspots in magnetically active regions are cooler
and 'darker' than the average photosphere and cause temporary decreases in TSI of as much as 0.3 %. Faculae in
magnetically active regions are hotter and 'brighter' than the average photosphere and cause temporary increases in
TSI. The net effect during periods of enhanced solar magnetic activity is increased radiant output of the sun because
faculae are larger and persist longer than sunspots.

There had been some suggestion that variations in the solar diameter might cause variations in output. But recent
work, mostly from the Michelson Doppler Imager instrument on SOHO, shows these changes to be small, about
0.001% (Dziembowski et al., 2001).
Various studies have been made using sunspot number (for which records extend over hundreds of years) as a proxy
for solar output (for which good records only extend for a few decades). Also, ground instruments have been
calibrated by comparison with high-altitude and orbital instruments. Researchers have combined present readings
and factors to adjust historical data. Other proxy data — such as the abundance of cosmogenic isotopes — have been
used to infer solar magnetic activity and thus likely brightness.
Sunspot activity has been measured using the Wolf number for about 300 years. This index (also known as the
Zürich number) uses both the number of sunspots and the number of groups of sunspots to compensate for
variations in measurement. A 2003 study by Ilya Usoskin of the University of Oulu, Finland found that sunspots had
Solar variation 173

been more frequent since the 1940s than in the previous 1150 years.[26]
Sunspot numbers over the past 11,400 years
have been reconstructed using
dendrochronologically dated radiocarbon
concentrations. The level of solar activity
during the past 70 years is exceptional —
the last period of similar magnitude
occurred over 8,000 years ago. The Sun was
at a similarly high level of magnetic activity
for only ~10% of the past 11,400 years, and
almost all of the earlier high-activity periods
were shorter than the present episode.[27] Reconstruction of solar activity over 11,400 years. Period of equally high activity
over 8,000 years ago marked.

Solar activity events recorded in radiocarbon. Present period is on left. Values since 1900
not shown.

Solar activity events and approximate dates

Event Start End

Oort minimum (see Medieval Warm Period) 1040 1080

Medieval maximum (see Medieval Warm Period) 1100 1250

Wolf minimum 1280 1350

Spörer Minimum 1450 1550

Maunder Minimum 1645 1715

Dalton Minimum 1790 1820

Modern Maximum 1900 present

A list of historical Grand minima of solar activity [28] includes also Grand minima ca. 690 AD, 360 BC, 770 BC,
1390 BC, 2860 BC, 3340 BC, 3500 BC, 3630 BC, 3940 BC, 4230 BC, 4330 BC, 5260 BC, 5460 BC, 5620 BC, 5710
BC, 5990 BC, 6220 BC, 6400 BC, 7040 BC, 7310 BC, 7520 BC, 8220 BC, 9170 BC.
Solar variation 174

Solar cycles
Solar cycles are cyclic changes in behavior of the Sun. Many possible patterns have been suggested; only the 11 and
22 year cycles are clear in the observations.
• 11 years: Most obvious is a gradual
increase and more rapid decrease of the
number of sunspots over a period ranging
from 9 to 12 years, called the Schwabe
cycle, named after Heinrich Schwabe.
Differential rotation of the sun's
convection zone (as a function of
latitude) consolidates magnetic flux 2,300 year Hallstatt solar variation cycles.
tubes, increases their magnetic field
strength and makes them buoyant (see Babcock Model). As they rise through the solar atmosphere they partially
block the convective flow of energy, cooling their region of the photosphere, causing 'sunspots'. The Sun's
apparent surface, the photosphere, radiates more actively when there are more sunspots. Satellite monitoring of
solar luminosity since 1980 has shown there is a direct relationship between the solar activity (sunspot) cycle and
luminosity with a solar cycle peak-to-peak amplitude of about 0.1 %.[2] Luminosity has also been found to
decrease by as much as 0.3 % on a 10 day timescale when large groups of sunspots rotate across the Earth's view
and increase by as much as 0.05 % for up to 6 months due to faculae associated with the large sunspot groups.[24]

• 22 years: Hale cycle, named after George Ellery Hale. The magnetic field of the Sun reverses during each
Schwabe cycle, so the magnetic poles return to the same state after two reversals.
• 87 years (70–100 years): Gleissberg cycle, named after Wolfgang Gleißberg, is thought to be an amplitude
modulation of the 11-year Schwabe Cycle (Sonnett and Finney, 1990),[29] Braun, et al., (2005).[30]
• 210 years: Suess cycle (a.k.a. de Vries cycle). Braun, et al., (2005).[30]
• 2,300 years: Hallstatt cycle[31] [32]
• 6000 years (Xapsos and Burke, 2009).[33]
Other patterns have been detected:
• In carbon-14: 105, 131, 232, 385, 504, 805, 2,241 years (Damon and Sonnett, 1991).
• During the Upper Permian 240 million years ago, mineral layers created in the Castile Formation show cycles of
2,500 years.
The sensitivity of climate to cyclical variations in solar forcing will be higher for longer cycles due to the thermal
inertia of the ocean, which acts to damp high frequencies. Using a phenomenological approach, Scafetta and West
(2005) found that the climate was 1.5 times as sensitive to 22 year cyclical forcing relative to 11 year cyclical
forcing, and that the thermal inertial induced a lag of approximately 2.2 years in cyclic climate response in the
temperature data.[34]

Predictions based on patterns

• A simple model based on emulating harmonics by multiplying the basic 11-year cycle by powers of 2 produced
results similar to Holocene behavior. Extrapolation suggests a gradual cooling during the next few centuries with
intermittent minor warmups and a return to near Little Ice Age conditions within the next 500 years. This cool
period then may be followed approximately 1,500 years from now by a return to altithermal conditions similar to
the previous Holocene Maximum.[35]
• There is weak evidence for a quasi-periodic variation in the sunspot cycle amplitudes with a period of about 90
years (Gleisberg cycle). These characteristics indicate that the next solar cycle should have a maximum smoothed
sunspot number of about 145±30 in 2010 while the following cycle should have a maximum of about 70±30 in
Solar variation 175

• Because carbon-14 cycles are quasi periodic, Damon and Sonett (1989) predict future climate:[37]
Solar irradiance, or insolation, is the
amount of sunlight which reaches the
Earth. The equipment used might
measure optical brightness, total
radiation, or radiation in various
frequencies. Historical estimates use
various measurements and proxies.

Solar irradiance spectrum above atmosphere and at surface

Cycle length Cycle name Last positive Next "warming"

carbon-14 anomaly

232 --?-- AD 1922 (cool) AD 2038

208 Suess AD 1898 (cool) AD 2210

88 Gleisberg AD 1986 (cool) AD 2030

Solar irradiance of Earth and its surface

There are two common meanings:
• the radiation reaching the upper
• the radiation reaching some point within
the atmosphere, including the surface.
Various gases within the atmosphere absorb
some solar radiation at different
wavelengths, and clouds and dust also affect
it. Measurements above the atmosphere are
needed to determine variations in solar
output, to avoid the confounding effects of
changes within the atmosphere. There is
some evidence that sunshine at the Earth's
surface has been decreasing in the last
50 years (see global dimming) possibly
caused by increased atmospheric pollution,
whilst over roughly the same timespan solar output has been nearly constant.
Solar variation 176

Milankovitch cycle variations

Some variations in insolation are not due to solar changes but rather due to the Earth moving closer or further from
the Sun, or changes in the latitudinal distribution of radiation. These have caused variations of as much as 25%
(locally; global average changes are much smaller) in solar insolation over long periods. The most recent significant
event was an axial tilt of 24° during boreal summer at near the time of the Holocene climatic optimum.

Solar interactions with Earth

There are several hypotheses for how solar variations may affect Earth. Some variations, such as changes in the size
of the Sun, are presently only of interest in the field of astronomy.

Changes in total irradiance

• Total solar irradiance changes slowly on decadal and longer timescales.
• The variation during recent solar magnetic activity cycles has been about 0.1% (peak-to-peak).[2]
• Variations corresponding to solar changes with periods of 9–13, 18–25, and >100 years have been detected in
sea-surface temperatures.
• In contrast to older reconstructions,[38] most recent reconstructions of total solar irradiance point to an only small
increase of only about 0.05 % to 0.1 % between Maunder Minimum and the present.[39] [40] [41]
• Different composite reconstructions of total solar irradiance observations by satellites show different trends since
1980; see the global warming section below.

Changes in ultraviolet irradiance

• Ultraviolet irradiance (EUV) varies by approximately 1.5 percent from solar maxima to minima, for 200 to
300 nm UV.[42]
• Energy changes in the UV wavelengths involved in production and loss of ozone have atmospheric effects.
• The 30 hPa atmospheric pressure level has changed height in phase with solar activity during the last 4 solar
• UV irradiance increase causes higher ozone production, leading to stratospheric heating and to poleward
displacements in the stratospheric and tropospheric wind systems.
• A proxy study estimates that UV has increased by 3% since the Maunder Minimum.

Changes in the solar wind and the Sun's magnetic flux

• A more active solar wind and stronger magnetic field reduces the cosmic rays striking the Earth's atmosphere.
• Variations in the solar wind affect the size and intensity of the heliosphere, the volume larger than the Solar
System filled with solar wind particles.
• Cosmogenic production of 14C, 10Be and 36Cl show changes tied to solar activity.
• Cosmic ray ionization in the upper atmosphere does change, but significant effects are not obvious.
• As the solar coronal-source magnetic flux doubled during the past century, the cosmic-ray flux has decreased by
about 15%.
• The Sun's total magnetic flux rose by a factor of 1.41 from 1964–1996 and by a factor of 2.3 since 1901.
Solar variation 177

Effects on clouds
• Cosmic rays have been hypothesized to affect formation of clouds through possible effects on production of cloud
condensation nuclei. Observational evidence for such a relationship is inconclusive.
• 1983–1994 data from the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP) showed that global low cloud
formation was highly correlated with cosmic ray flux; subsequent to this the correlation breaks down.[43]

Other effects due to solar variation

Interaction of solar particles, the solar magnetic field, and the Earth's magnetic field, cause variations in the particle
and electromagnetic fields at the surface of the planet. Extreme solar events can affect electrical devices. Weakening
of the Sun's magnetic field is believed to increase the number of interstellar cosmic rays which reach Earth's
atmosphere, altering the types of particles reaching the surface. It has been speculated that a change in cosmic rays
could cause an increase in certain types of clouds, affecting Earth's albedo.

Geomagnetic effects
The Earth's polar aurorae are visual displays created by interactions
between the solar wind, the solar magnetosphere, the Earth's magnetic
field, and the Earth's atmosphere. Variations in any of these affect
aurora displays.
Sudden changes can cause the intense disturbances in the Earth's
magnetic fields which are called geomagnetic storms.
Solar particles interact with Earth's
Solar proton events magnetosphere

Energetic protons can reach Earth within 30 minutes of a major flare's

peak. During such a solar proton event, Earth is showered in energetic solar particles (primarily protons) released
from the flare site. Some of these particles spiral down Earth's magnetic field lines, penetrating the upper layers of
our atmosphere where they produce additional ionization and may produce a significant increase in the radiation

Galactic cosmic rays

An increase in solar activity (more sunspots) is accompanied by an
increase in the "solar wind," which is an outflow of ionized particles,
mostly protons and electrons, from the sun. The Earth's geomagnetic
field, the solar wind, and the solar magnetic field deflect galactic
cosmic rays (GCR). A decrease in solar activity increases the GCR
penetration of the troposphere and stratosphere. GCR particles are the
primary source of ionization in the troposphere above 1 km (below
1 km, radon is a dominant source of ionization in many areas).

Levels of GCRs have been indirectly recorded by their influence on the

Solar wind and magnetic field create heliosphere
production of carbon-14 and beryllium-10. The Hallstatt solar cycle around solar system.
length of approximately 2300 years is reflected by climatic
Dansgaard-Oeschger events. The 80–90 year solar Gleissberg cycles appear to vary in length depending upon the
lengths of the concurrent 11 year solar cycles, and there also appear to be similar climate patterns occurring on this
time scale.
Solar variation 178

Cloud effects
Changes in ionization affect the abundance of aerosols that serve as the nuclei of condensation for cloud
formation.[44] As a result, ionization levels potentially affect levels of condensation, low clouds, relative humidity,
and albedo due to clouds. Clouds formed from greater amounts of condensation nuclei are brighter, longer lived, and
likely to produce less precipitation. Changes of 3–4% in cloudiness and concurrent changes in cloud top
temperatures have been correlated to the 11 and 22 year solar (sunspot) cycles, with increased GCR levels during
"antiparallel" cycles.[45] Global average cloud cover change has been found to be 1.5–2%. Several studies of GCR
and cloud cover variations have found positive correlation at latitudes greater than 50° and negative correlation at
lower latitudes.[44] However, not all scientists accept this correlation as statistically significant, and some that do
attribute it to other solar variability (e.g. UV or total irradiance variations) rather than directly to GCR changes.[46]
Difficulties in interpreting such correlations include the fact that many aspects of solar variability change at
similar times, and some climate systems have delayed responses.

Carbon-14 production
The production of carbon-14 (radiocarbon:
C) also is related to solar activity.
Carbon-14 is produced in the upper
atmosphere when cosmic ray bombardment
of atmospheric nitrogen (14N) induces the
Nitrogen to undergo β+ decay, thus
transforming into an unusual isotope of
Carbon with an atomic weight of 14 rather
than the more common 12. Because cosmic
rays are partially excluded from the Solar
System by the outward sweep of magnetic
fields in the solar wind, increased solar Sunspot record (blue) with 14C (inverted).

activity results in a reduction of cosmic rays

reaching the Earth's atmosphere and thus reduces 14C production. Thus the cosmic ray intensity and carbon-14
production vary inversely to the general level of solar activity.[48]

Therefore, the atmospheric 14C concentration is lower during sunspot maxima and higher during sunspot minima.
By measuring the captured 14C in wood and counting tree rings, production of radiocarbon relative to recent wood
can be measured and dated. A reconstruction of the past 10,000 years shows that the 14C production was much
higher during the mid-Holocene 7,000 years ago and decreased until 1,000 years ago. In addition to variations in
solar activity, the long term trends in carbon-14 production are influenced by changes in the Earth's geomagnetic
field and by changes in carbon cycling within the biosphere (particularly those associated with changes in the extent
of vegetation since the last ice age).[49]
Solar variation 179

Global warming
See Solar constant#Variation.


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General references
• Abbot, C. G. (1966). "Solar Variation, A Weather Element" (
pdf) (PDF). Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 56 (6): 1627–34. doi:10.1073/pnas.56.6.1627. PMC 220145.
PMID 16591394.
• Willson, Richard C.; H.S. Hudson (1991). "The Sun's luminosity over a complete solar cycle" (http://www. Nature 351 (6321): 42–4.
• "The Sun and Climate" ( U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 0095-00.
Retrieved 2005-02-21.
• "The Sun's role in Climate Changes" ( (PDF). Proc. of The International Conference on Global
Warming and The Next Ice Age, 19–24 August 2001, Halifax, Nova Scotia.. Archived from the original (http:// on October 22, 2004. Retrieved 2005-02-21.
• White, Warren B.; Lean, Judith; Cayan, Daniel R.; Dettinger, Michael D. (1997). "Response of global upper
ocean temperature to changing solar irradiance" (
Journal of Geophysical Research 102 (C2): 3255–66. Bibcode 1997JGR...102.3255W. doi:10.1029/96JC03549.
• Foukal, Peter; et al. (1977). "The effects of sunspots and faculae on the solar constant". Astrophysical Journal
215: 952. Bibcode 1977ApJ...215..952F. doi:10.1086/155431.
• Dziembowski, W.A.; P.R. Goode, and J. Schou (2001). "Does the sun shrink with increasing magnetic activity?".
Astrophysical Journal 553 (2): 897–904. Bibcode 2001ApJ...553..897D. doi:10.1086/320976.
• Stetson, H.T. (1937). Sunspots and Their Effects. New York: McGraw Hill.
Solar variation 182

External links
• Gerrit Lohmann, Norel Rimbu, Mihai Dima (2004). "Climate signature of solar irradiance variations: analysis of
long-term instrumental, historical, and proxy data" (
109062443/ABSTRACT). International Journal of Climatology 24 (8): 1045–56. doi:10.1002/joc.1054.
• Solar Climatic Effects (Recent Influence) — Summary. Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global
Change. 19 March 2003.
• NOAA / NESDIS / NGDC (2002) Solar Variability Affecting Earth (
solar_variability.html) NOAA CD-ROM NGDC-05/01. This CD-ROM contains over 100 solar-terrestrial and
related global data bases covering the period through April 1990.
• Solanki, S.K.; Fligge, M. (2001). Long-term changes in solar irradiance (
papers/fligge/solspa_2.pdf). ESA Publications Division. ESA SP-463.
• Solanki, S.K.; Fligge, M. (2000). "Reconstruction of past solar irradiance" (
papers/fligge/solfli_rev.pdf). Space Science Review 94 (1/2): 127–38. doi:10.1023/A:1026754803423.
• Reid, George C. (1995). "The sun-climate question: Is there a real connection?" (
revgeophys/reid00/reid00.html). Rev. Geophys. 33 (Suppl). Aeronomy Laboratory, NOAA/ERL, Boulder,
Colorado. U.S. National Report to IUGG, 1991–1994
• Recent Total Solar Irradiance data ( updated every Monday


Cleveland Volcano in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska photographed

from the International Space Station, May 2006

Cross-section through a stratovolcano (vertical scale is exaggerated):

1. Large magma chamber 9. Layers of lava emitted by the

2. Bedrock volcano
3. Conduit (pipe) 10. Throat
4. Base 11. Parasitic cone
5. Sill 12. Lava flow
6. Dike 13. Vent
7. Layers of ash emitted by the 14. Crater
volcano 15. Ash cloud
8. Flank
Volcano 183

A volcano is an opening, or rupture, in a planet's surface or crust,

which allows hot magma, volcanic ash and gases to escape from below
the surface.
Volcanoes are generally found where tectonic plates are diverging or
converging. A mid-oceanic ridge, for example the Mid-Atlantic Ridge,
has examples of volcanoes caused by divergent tectonic plates pulling
apart; the Pacific Ring of Fire has examples of volcanoes caused by
convergent tectonic plates coming together. By contrast, volcanoes are
usually not created where two tectonic plates slide past one another.
Volcanoes can also form where there is stretching and thinning of the
Earth's crust in the interiors of plates, e.g., in the East African Rift, the Pinatubo ash plume reaching a height of 19 km, 3
days before the climactic eruption of 15 June
Wells Gray-Clearwater volcanic field and the Rio Grande Rift in North
America. This type of volcanism falls under the umbrella of "Plate
hypothesis" volcanism.[1]

Intraplate volcanism has also been postulated to be caused by mantle plumes. These so-called "hotspots", for
example Hawaii, are postulated to arise from upwelling diapirs from the core-mantle boundary, 3,000 km deep in the

The word volcano is derived from the name of Vulcano, a volcanic island in the Aeolian Islands of Italy whose name
in turn originates from Vulcan, the name of a god of fire in Roman mythology.[2] The study of volcanoes is called
volcanology, sometimes spelled vulcanology.

Plate tectonics

Divergent plate boundaries

At the mid-oceanic ridges, two tectonic
plates diverge from one another. New
oceanic crust is being formed by hot molten
rock slowly cooling and solidifying. The
crust is very thin at mid-oceanic ridges due
to the pull of the tectonic plates. The release
of pressure due to the thinning of the crust
leads to adiabatic expansion, and the partial
melting of the mantle causing volcanism and Map showing the divergent plate boundaries (OSR – Oceanic Spreading Ridges)
creating new oceanic crust. Most divergent and recent sub aerial volcanoes.

plate boundaries are at the bottom of the

oceans, therefore most volcanic activity is submarine, forming new seafloor. Black smokers or deep sea vents are an
example of this kind of volcanic activity. Where the mid-oceanic ridge is above sea-level, volcanic islands are
formed, for example, Iceland.
Volcano 184

Convergent plate boundaries

Subduction zones are places where two plates, usually an oceanic plate
and a continental plate, collide. In this case, the oceanic plate subducts,
or submerges under the continental plate forming a deep ocean trench
just offshore. Water released from the subducting plate lowers the
melting temperature of the overlying mantle wedge, creating magma.
This magma tends to be very viscous due to its high silica content, so
often does not reach the surface and cools at depth. When it does reach Mount Rinjani eruption in 1994, in Lombok,
the surface, a volcano is formed. Typical examples for this kind of Indonesia

volcano are Mount Etna and the volcanoes in the Pacific Ring of Fire.

"Hotspots" is the name given to volcanic provinces postulated to be
formed by mantle plumes. These are postulated to comprise columns of
hot material that rise from the core-mantle boundary. They are
suggested to be hot, causing large-volume melting, and to be fixed in
space. Because the tectonic plates move across them, each volcano
becomes dormant after a while and a new volcano is then formed as the
plate shifts over the postulated plume. The Hawaiian Islands have been Lava enters the Pacific at the Big Island of
suggested to have been formed in such a manner, as well as the Snake Hawaii

River Plain, with the Yellowstone Caldera being the part of the North
American plate currently above the hot spot. This theory is currently under criticism, however.[1]

Volcanic features
The most common perception of a volcano is of a conical mountain,
spewing lava and poisonous gases from a crater at its summit. This
describes just one of many types of volcano, and the features of
volcanoes are much more complicated. The structure and behavior of
volcanoes depends on a number of factors. Some volcanoes have
rugged peaks formed by lava domes rather than a summit crater,
whereas others present landscape features such as massive plateaus.
Vents that issue volcanic material (lava, which is what magma is called
once it has escaped to the surface, and ash) and gases (mainly steam
Conical Mount Fuji in Japan, at sunrise from
and magmatic gases) can be located anywhere on the landform. Many
Lake Kawaguchi (2005)
of these vents give rise to smaller cones such as Puʻu ʻŌʻō on a flank of
Hawaii's Kīlauea.
Volcano 185

Other types of volcano include cryovolcanoes (or ice volcanoes),

particularly on some moons of Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune; and mud
volcanoes, which are formations often not associated with known
magmatic activity. Active mud volcanoes tend to involve temperatures
much lower than those of igneous volcanoes, except when a mud
volcano is actually a vent of an igneous volcano.

Fissure vents
Volcanic fissure vents are flat, linear cracks through which lava Lakagigar fissure vent in Iceland, source of the
emerges. major world climate alteration of 1783–84.
Volcanic eruptions are experienced somewhere in
Iceland on an average of once every five years.
Shield volcanoes
Shield volcanoes, so named for their broad, shield-like profiles, are
formed by the eruption of low-viscosity lava that can flow a great
distance from a vent, but not generally explode catastrophically. Since
low-viscosity magma is typically low in silica, shield volcanoes are
more common in oceanic than continental settings. The Hawaiian
volcanic chain is a series of shield cones, and they are common in
Iceland, as well.

Skjaldbreiður, a shield volcano whose name

Lava domes means "broad shield"

Lava domes are built by slow eruptions of highly viscous lavas. They
are sometimes formed within the crater of a previous volcanic eruption
(as in Mount Saint Helens), but can also form independently, as in the
case of Lassen Peak. Like stratovolcanoes, they can produce violent,
explosive eruptions, but their lavas generally do not flow far from the
originating vent.

Cryptodomes are formed when viscous lava forces its way up and January 2009 image of the rhyolitic lava dome of
Chaitén Volcano, southern Chile during its
causes a bulge. The 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens was an
2008–2009 eruption
example. Lava was under great pressure and forced a bulge in the
mountain, which was unstable and slid down the north side.

Volcanic cones (cinder cones)

Volcanic cones or cinder cones are the result from eruptions that erupt
mostly small pieces of scoria and pyroclastics (both resemble cinders,
hence the name of this volcano type) that build up around the vent.
These can be relatively short-lived eruptions that produce a
cone-shaped hill perhaps 30 to 400 meters high. Most cinder cones
erupt only once. Cinder cones may form as flank vents on larger
volcanoes, or occur on their own. Parícutin in Mexico and Sunset Holocene cinder cone volcano on State Highway
Crater in Arizona are examples of cinder cones. In New Mexico, Caja 18 near Veyo, Utah

del Rio is a volcanic field of over 60 cinder cones.

Volcano 186

Stratovolcanoes (composite volcanoes)

Stratovolcanoes or composite volcanoes are tall conical mountains
composed of lava flows and other ejecta in alternate layers, the strata
that give rise to the name. Stratovolcanoes are also known as
composite volcanoes, created from several structures during different
kinds of eruptions. Strato/composite volcanoes are made of cinders,
ash and lava. Cinders and ash pile on top of each other, lava flows on
top of the ash, where it cools and hardens, and then the process begins Mayon, near-perfect stratovolcano in the
again. Classic examples include Mt. Fuji in Japan, Mayon Volcano in
the Philippines, and Mount Vesuvius and Stromboli in Italy.

In recorded history, explosive eruptions by stratovolcanoes have posed the greatest hazard to civilizations, as ash is
produced by an explosive eruption. No supervolcano erupted in recorded history. Shield volcanoes have not an
enormous pressure build up from the lava flow. Fissure vents and monogenetic volcanic fields (volcanic cones) have
not powerful explosive eruptions, as they are many times under extension. Stratovolcanoes (30–35°) are steeper than
shield volcanoes (generally 5–10°), their loose tephra are material for dangerous lahars.[4]

A supervolcano is a large volcano that usually has a large caldera and
can potentially produce devastation on an enormous, sometimes
continental, scale. Such eruptions would be able to cause severe
cooling of global temperatures for many years afterwards because of
the huge volumes of sulfur and ash erupted. They are the most
dangerous type of volcano. Examples include Yellowstone Caldera in
Yellowstone National Park and Valles Caldera in New Mexico (both
western United States), Lake Taupo in New Zealand, Lake Toba in
Sumatra, Indonesia and Ngorogoro Crater in Tanzania, Krakatoa near
The Lake Toba volcano created a caldera 100 km
Java and Sumatra, Indonesia. Supervolcanoes are hard to identify
centuries later, given the enormous areas they cover. Large igneous
provinces are also considered supervolcanoes because of the vast
amount of basalt lava erupted, but are non-explosive.

Submarine volcanoes
Submarine volcanoes are common features on the ocean floor. Some are active and, in shallow water, disclose their
presence by blasting steam and rocky debris high above the surface of the sea. Many others lie at such great depths
that the tremendous weight of the water above them prevents the explosive release of steam and gases, although they
can be detected by hydrophones and discoloration of water because of volcanic gases. Pumice rafts may also appear.
Even large submarine eruptions may not disturb the ocean surface. Because of the rapid cooling effect of water as
compared to air, and increased buoyancy, submarine volcanoes often form rather steep pillars over their volcanic
vents as compared to above-surface volcanoes. They may become so large that they break the ocean surface as new
islands. Pillow lava is a common eruptive product of submarine volcanoes. Hydrothermal vents are common near
these volcanoes, and some support peculiar ecosystems based on dissolved minerals.
Volcano 187

Subglacial volcanoes
Subglacial volcanoes develop underneath icecaps. They are made up
of flat lava which flows at the top of extensive pillow lavas and
palagonite. When the icecap melts, the lavas on the top collapse,
leaving a flat-topped mountain. These volcanoes are also called table
mountains, tuyas or (uncommonly) mobergs. Very good examples of
this type of volcano can be seen in Iceland, however, there are also
tuyas in British Columbia. The origin of the term comes from Tuya
Butte, which is one of the several tuyas in the area of the Tuya River
and Tuya Range in northern British Columbia. Tuya Butte was the first Herðubreið, one of the tuyas in Iceland

such landform analyzed and so its name has entered the geological
literature for this kind of volcanic formation. The Tuya Mountains
Provincial Park was recently established to protect this unusual
landscape, which lies north of Tuya Lake and south of the Jennings
River near the boundary with the Yukon Territory.

Mud volcanoes
Mud volcanoes or mud domes are formations created by geo-excreted
liquids and gases, although there are several processes which may
cause such activity. The largest structures are 10 kilometers in diameter Mud volcano on Taman Peninsula, Russia
and reach 700 meters high.

Erupted material

Lava composition
Another way of classifying volcanoes is by the composition of material
erupted (lava), since this affects the shape of the volcano. Lava can be
broadly classified into 4 different compositions (Cas & Wright, 1987):
• If the erupted magma contains a high percentage (>63%) of silica,
the lava is called felsic.
• Felsic lavas (dacites or rhyolites) tend to be highly viscous (not
Pāhoehoe Lava flow on Hawaii. The picture
very fluid) and are erupted as domes or short, stubby flows.
shows overflows of a main lava channel.
Viscous lavas tend to form stratovolcanoes or lava domes.
Lassen Peak in California is an example of a volcano formed
from felsic lava and is actually a large lava dome.
• Because siliceous magmas are so viscous, they tend to trap volatiles (gases) that are present, which cause the
magma to erupt catastrophically, eventually forming stratovolcanoes. Pyroclastic flows (ignimbrites) are
highly hazardous products of such volcanoes, since they are composed of molten volcanic ash too heavy to go
up into the atmosphere, so they hug the volcano's slopes and travel far from their vents during large eruptions.
Volcano 188

Temperatures as high as 1,200 °C are known to occur in

pyroclastic flows, which will incinerate everything flammable in
their path and thick layers of hot pyroclastic flow deposits can be
laid down, often up to many meters thick. Alaska's Valley of Ten
Thousand Smokes, formed by the eruption of Novarupta near
Katmai in 1912, is an example of a thick pyroclastic flow or
ignimbrite deposit. Volcanic ash that is light enough to be
erupted high into the Earth's atmosphere may travel many
The Stromboli volcano off the coast of Sicily has
kilometres before it falls back to ground as a tuff.
erupted continuously for thousands of years,
• If the erupted magma contains 52–63% silica, the lava is of giving rise to the term strombolian eruption.
intermediate composition.
• These "andesitic" volcanoes generally only occur above
subduction zones (e.g. Mount Merapi in Indonesia).
• Andesitic lava is typically formed at convergent boundary
margins of tectonic plates, by several processes:
• Hydration melting of peridotite and fractional crystallization
• Melting of subducted slab containing sediments
• Magma mixing between felsic rhyolitic and mafic basaltic
magmas in an intermediate reservoir prior to emplacement or
lava flow.
Mafic basalt lava flows created the Deccan Traps
• If the erupted magma contains <52% and >45% silica, the lava is near Matheran, east of Mumbai, one of the largest
called mafic (because it contains higher percentages of magnesium volcanic features on Earth.
(Mg) and iron (Fe)) or basaltic. These lavas are usually much less
viscous than rhyolitic lavas, depending on their eruption
temperature; they also tend to be hotter than felsic lavas. Mafic
lavas occur in a wide range of settings:

• At mid-ocean ridges, where two oceanic plates are pulling apart,

basaltic lava erupts as pillows to fill the gap;
• Shield volcanoes (e.g. the Hawaiian Islands, including Mauna
Loa and Kilauea), on both oceanic and continental crust;
• As continental flood basalts.
• Some erupted magmas contain <=45% silica and produce ultramafic
lava. Ultramafic flows, also known as komatiites, are very rare;
indeed, very few have been erupted at the Earth's surface since the
Proterozoic, when the planet's heat flow was higher. They are (or
were) the hottest lavas, and probably more fluid than common mafic
Pāhoehoe lava from Kīlauea, Hawaii

Lava texture
Two types of lava are named according to the surface texture: ʻAʻa (pronounced Hawaiian pronunciation: [ˈʔaʔa]) and
pāhoehoe (Hawaiian pronunciation: [paːˈho.eˈho.e]), both Hawaiian words. ʻAʻa is characterized by a rough, clinkery
surface and is the typical texture of viscous lava flows. However, even basaltic or mafic flows can be erupted as ʻaʻa
flows, particularly if the eruption rate is high and the slope is steep.
Pāhoehoe is characterized by its smooth and often ropey or wrinkly surface and is generally formed from more fluid
lava flows. Usually, only mafic flows will erupt as pāhoehoe, since they often erupt at higher temperatures or have
Volcano 189

the proper chemical make-up to allow them to flow with greater fluidity.

Volcanic activity

Popular classification of volcanoes


A popular way of classifying magmatic volcanoes is by their frequency

of eruption, with those that erupt regularly called active, those that
have erupted in historical times but are now quiet called dormant, and
those that have not erupted in historical times called extinct. However,
these popular classifications—extinct in particular—are practically Active volcano Mount St. Helens shortly after the
eruption of 18 May 1980
meaningless to scientists. They use classifications which refer to a
particular volcano's formative and eruptive processes and resulting
shapes, which was explained above.

There is no real consensus among volcanologists on how to define an

"active" volcano. The lifespan of a volcano can vary from months to
several million years, making such a distinction sometimes
meaningless when compared to the lifespans of humans or even
civilizations. For example, many of Earth's volcanoes have erupted
dozens of times in the past few thousand years but are not currently
showing signs of eruption. Given the long lifespan of such volcanoes,
they are very active. By human lifespans, however, they are not.
Damavand, the highest volcano in Asia, is a
Scientists usually consider a volcano to be erupting or likely to erupt potentially active volcano with fumaroles and
if it is currently erupting, or showing signs of unrest such as unusual solfatara near its summit.

earthquake activity or significant new gas emissions. Most scientists

consider a volcano active if it has erupted in holocene times. Historic
times is another timeframe for active.[5] But it is important to note that
the span of recorded history differs from region to region. In China and
the Mediterranean, recorded history reaches back more than 3,000
years but in the Pacific Northwest of the United States and Canada, it
reaches back less than 300 years, and in Hawaii and New Zealand,
only around 200 years.[6] The Smithsonian Global Volcanism
Program's definition of active is having erupted within the last 10,000
years (the 'holocene' period).

Presently there are about 500 active volcanoes in the world – the
majority following along the Pacific 'Ring of Fire' – and around 50 of
these erupt each year.[7] The United States is home to 50 active
volcanoes.[8] There are more than 1,500 potentially active volcanoes.[9]
An estimated 500 million people live near active volcanoes.[10]

Fresco of Bacchus and Agathodaemon with

Mount Vesuvius, as seen in Pompeii's House of
the Centenary.
Volcano 190


Extinct volcanoes are those that scientists consider unlikely to erupt

again, because the volcano no longer has a lava supply. Examples of
extinct volcanoes are many volcanoes on the Hawaiian – Emperor
seamount chain in the Pacific Ocean, Hohentwiel, Shiprock and the
Zuidwal volcano in the Netherlands. Edinburgh Castle in Scotland is
famously located atop an extinct volcano. Otherwise, whether a
volcano is truly extinct is often difficult to determine. Since Fourpeaked volcano, Alaska, in September 2007,
"supervolcano" calderas can have eruptive lifespans sometimes after being thought extinct for over 10,000 years.
measured in millions of years, a caldera that has not produced an
eruption in tens of thousands of years is likely to be considered dormant instead of extinct.


It is difficult to distinguish an extinct volcano from a dormant one. Volcanoes are often considered to be extinct if
there are no written records of its activity. Nevertheless, volcanoes may remain dormant for a long period of time.
For example, Yellowstone has a repose/recharge period of around 700 ka, and Toba of around 380 ka.[11] Vesuvius
was described by Roman writers as having been covered with gardens and vineyards before its famous eruption of
AD 79, which destroyed the towns of Herculaneum and Pompeii. Before its catastrophic eruption of 1991, Pinatubo
was an inconspicuous volcano, unknown to most people in the surrounding areas. Two other examples are the
long-dormant Soufrière Hills volcano on the island of Montserrat, thought to be extinct before activity resumed in
1995 and Fourpeaked Mountain in Alaska, which, before its September 2006 eruption, had not erupted since before
8000 BC and had long been thought to be extinct.

Notable volcanoes
The 16 current Decade Volcanoes are:

Koryaksky volcano towering over

Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky on Kamchatka
Peninsula, Far Eastern Russia.
Volcano 191

Mount Teide on the island of Tenerife (Spain).

• Avachinsky-Koryaksky, Kamchatka, Russia • Sakurajima, Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan

• Nevado de Colima, Jalisco and Colima, Mexico • Santa Maria/Santiaguito, Guatemala
• Mount Etna, Sicily, Italy • Santorini, Cyclades, Greece
• Galeras, Nariño, Colombia • Taal Volcano, Luzon, Philippines
• Mauna Loa, Hawaii, USA • Teide, Canary Islands, Spain
• Mount Merapi, Central Java, Indonesia • Ulawun, New Britain, Papua New Guinea
• Mount Nyiragongo, Democratic Republic of the Congo • Mount Unzen, Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan
• Mount Rainier, Washington, USA • Vesuvius, Naples, Italy

Effects of volcanoes
There are many different types of volcanic eruptions and associated
activity: phreatic eruptions (steam-generated eruptions), explosive
eruption of high-silica lava (e.g., rhyolite), effusive eruption of
low-silica lava (e.g., basalt), pyroclastic flows, lahars (debris flow) and
carbon dioxide emission. All of these activities can pose a hazard to
humans. Earthquakes, hot springs, fumaroles, mud pots and geysers
often accompany volcanic activity.

The concentrations of different volcanic gases can vary considerably

from one volcano to the next. Water vapor is typically the most
Volcanic "injection"
abundant volcanic gas, followed by carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide.
Other principal volcanic gases include hydrogen sulfide, hydrogen
chloride, and hydrogen fluoride. A large number of minor and trace
gases are also found in volcanic emissions, for example hydrogen,
carbon monoxide, halocarbons, organic compounds, and volatile metal

Large, explosive volcanic eruptions inject water vapor (H2O), carbon

dioxide (CO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), hydrogen chloride (HCl),
hydrogen fluoride (HF) and ash (pulverized rock and pumice) into the
stratosphere to heights of 16–32 kilometres (10–20 mi) above the
Solar radiation reduction from volcanic eruptions Earth's surface. The most significant impacts from these injections
come from the conversion of sulfur dioxide to sulfuric acid (H2SO4),
which condenses rapidly in the stratosphere to form fine sulfate aerosols. The aerosols increase the Earth's
albedo—its reflection of
Volcano 192

radiation from the Sun back into space – and thus cool the Earth's
lower atmosphere or troposphere; however, they also absorb heat
radiated up from the Earth, thereby warming the stratosphere. Several
eruptions during the past century have caused a decline in the average
temperature at the Earth's surface of up to half a degree (Fahrenheit
scale) for periods of one to three years — sulfur dioxide from the
eruption of Huaynaputina probably caused the Russian famine of 1601
- 1603.[12] Sulfur dioxide emissions by volcanoes.

One proposed volcanic winter happened c. 70,000 years ago following

the supereruption of Lake Toba on Sumatra island in Indonesia.[13]
According to the Toba catastrophe theory to which some
anthropologists and archeologists subscribe, it had global
consequences,[14] killing most humans then alive and creating a
population bottleneck that affected the genetic inheritance of all
humans today.[15] The 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora created global
climate anomalies that became known as the "Year Without a
Summer" because of the effect on North American and European
weather.[16] Agricultural crops failed and livestock died in much of the
Northern Hemisphere, resulting in one of the worst famines of the 19th
century.[17] The freezing winter of 1740–41, which led to widespread
famine in northern Europe, may also owe its origins to a volcanic Average concentration of sulfur dioxide over the
eruption.[18] Sierra Negra Volcano (Galapagos Islands) from
October 23 – November 1, 2005
It has been suggested that volcanic activity caused or contributed to the
End-Ordovician, Permian-Triassic, Late Devonian mass extinctions, and possibly others. The massive eruptive event
which formed the Siberian Traps, one of the largest known volcanic events of the last 500 million years of Earth's
geological history, continued for a million years and is considered to be the likely cause of the "Great Dying" about
250 million years ago,[19] which is estimated to have killed 90% of species existing at the time.[20]
The sulfate aerosols also promote complex chemical reactions on their surfaces that alter chlorine and nitrogen
chemical species in the stratosphere. This effect, together with increased stratospheric chlorine levels from
chlorofluorocarbon pollution, generates chlorine monoxide (ClO), which destroys ozone (O3). As the aerosols grow
and coagulate, they settle down into the upper troposphere where they serve as nuclei for cirrus clouds and further
modify the Earth's radiation balance. Most of the hydrogen chloride (HCl) and hydrogen fluoride (HF) are dissolved
in water droplets in the eruption cloud and quickly fall to the ground as acid rain. The injected ash also falls rapidly
from the stratosphere; most of it is removed within several days to a few weeks. Finally, explosive volcanic
eruptions release the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and thus provide a deep source of carbon for biogeochemical
Volcano 193

Gas emissions from volcanoes are a natural contributor to acid rain.

Volcanic activity releases about 130 to 230 teragrams (145 million to
255 million short tons) of carbon dioxide each year.[21] Volcanic
eruptions may inject aerosols into the Earth's atmosphere. Large
injections may cause visual effects such as unusually colorful sunsets
and affect global climate mainly by cooling it. Volcanic eruptions also
provide the benefit of adding nutrients to soil through the weathering
process of volcanic rocks. These fertile soils assist the growth of plants
Rainbow and volcanic ash with sulfur dioxide and various crops. Volcanic eruptions can also create new islands, as
emissions from Halema`uma`u vent.
the magma cools and solidifies upon contact with the water.

Ash thrown into the air by eruptions can present a hazard to aircraft, especially jet aircraft where the particles can be
melted by the high operating temperature. Dangerous encounters in 1982 after the eruption of Galunggung in
Indonesia, and 1989 after the eruption of Mount Redoubt in Alaska raised awareness of this phenomenon. Nine
Volcanic Ash Advisory Centers were established by the International Civil Aviation Organization to monitor ash
clouds and advise pilots accordingly. The 2010 eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull caused major disruptions to air travel in

Volcanoes on other planetary bodies

The Earth's Moon has no large volcanoes and no current volcanic activity,
although recent evidence suggests it may still possess a partially molten core.[22]
However, the Moon does have many volcanic features such as maria (the darker
patches seen on the moon), rilles and domes.
The planet Venus has a surface that is 90% basalt, indicating that volcanism
played a major role in shaping its surface. The planet may have had a major
global resurfacing event about 500 million years ago,[23] from what scientists can
tell from the density of impact craters on the surface. Lava flows are widespread
and forms of volcanism not present on Earth occur as well. Changes in the
planet's atmosphere and observations of lightning have been attributed to
ongoing volcanic eruptions, although there is no confirmation of whether or not
Venus is still volcanically active. However, radar sounding by the Magellan
probe revealed evidence for comparatively recent volcanic activity at Venus's
highest volcano Maat Mons, in the form of ash flows near the summit and on the
northern flank.

There are several extinct volcanoes on Mars, four of which are vast shield
volcanoes far bigger than any on Earth. They include Arsia Mons, Ascraeus
Olympus Mons (Latin, "Mount
Mons, Hecates Tholus, Olympus Mons, and Pavonis Mons. These volcanoes
Olympus") is the tallest known
have been extinct for many millions of years,[24] but the European Mars Express mountain in our solar system, located
spacecraft has found evidence that volcanic activity may have occurred on Mars on the planet Mars.
in the recent past as well.[24]
Volcano 194

Jupiter's moon Io is the most volcanically active object in the solar

system because of tidal interaction with Jupiter. It is covered with
volcanoes that erupt sulfur, sulfur dioxide and silicate rock, and as a
result, Io is constantly being resurfaced. Its lavas are the hottest known
anywhere in the solar system, with temperatures exceeding 1,800 K
(1,500 °C). In February 2001, the largest recorded volcanic eruptions
in the solar system occurred on Io.[25] Europa, the smallest of Jupiter's
Galilean moons, also appears to have an active volcanic system, except
that its volcanic activity is entirely in the form of water, which freezes
into ice on the frigid surface. This process is known as cryovolcanism,
and is apparently most common on the moons of the outer planets of
The Tvashtar volcano erupts a plume 330 km
the solar system.
(205 mi) above the surface of Jupiter's moon Io.
In 1989 the Voyager 2 spacecraft observed cryovolcanoes (ice
volcanoes) on Triton, a moon of Neptune, and in 2005 the
Cassini-Huygens probe photographed fountains of frozen particles erupting from Enceladus, a moon of Saturn.[26]
The ejecta may be composed of water, liquid nitrogen, dust, or methane compounds. Cassini-Huygens also found
evidence of a methane-spewing cryovolcano on the Saturnian moon Titan, which is believed to be a significant
source of the methane found in its atmosphere.[27] It is theorized that cryovolcanism may also be present on the
Kuiper Belt Object Quaoar.

A 2010 study of the exoplanet COROT-7b, which was detected by transit in 2009, studied that tidal heating from the
host star very close to the planet and neighboring planets could generate intense volcanic activity similar to Io.[28]

Traditional beliefs about volcanoes

Many ancient accounts ascribe volcanic eruptions to supernatural causes, such as the actions of gods or demigods.
To the ancient Greeks, volcanoes' capricious power could only be explained as acts of the gods, while
16th/17th-century German astronomer Johannes Kepler believed they were ducts for the Earth's tears.[29] One early
idea counter to this was proposed by Jesuit Athanasius Kircher (1602–1680), who witnessed eruptions of Mount
Etna and Stromboli, then visited the crater of Vesuvius and published his view of an Earth with a central fire
connected to numerous others caused by the burning of sulfur, bitumen and coal.
Various explanations were proposed for volcano behavior before the modern understanding of the Earth's mantle
structure as a semisolid material was developed. For decades after awareness that compression and radioactive
materials may be heat sources, their contributions were specifically discounted. Volcanic action was often attributed
to chemical reactions and a thin layer of molten rock near the surface.


Mount Bromo, East Java, Indonesia.

Volcano 195

Crater of Mount Tangkuban Perahu, West Java, Indonesia.

Irazú Volcano, Costa Rica.

Black Rock Volcano an extinct cinder cone near Fillmore, Utah.

Taal Volcano, Philippines.

Volcano 196

Crater of Sierra Negra volcano, Isabela island, Galapagos, Ecuador.

Vulcano island with the north coast of Sicily in the background.

Remote Binubulauan in Kalinga province, central northern Luzon, Philippines, April 2009
Volcano 197

[1] Foulger, G.R. (2010). Plates vs. Plumes: A Geological Controversy (http:/ / www. wiley. com/ WileyCDA/ WileyTitle/
productCd-1405161485. html). Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-1-4051-6148-0. .
[2] Douglas Harper (November 2001). "Volcano" (http:/ / www. etymonline. com/ index. php?term=volcano). Online Etymology Dictionary. .
Retrieved 2009-06-11.
[3] " Iceland (http:/ / books. google. com/ books?id=4-puvJH_lykC& pg=PA100& dq& hl=en#v=onepage& q=& f=false)". Jane Simmonds
(1999). Langenscheidt. p.100. ISBN 0887291767
[4] Lockwood, John P.; Hazlett, Richard W. (2010). Volcanoes: Global Perspectives (http:/ / books. google. com/ ?id=eJopFDVRgYMC&
pg=PA115& dq). p. 552. ISBN 978-1-4051-6250-0. .
[5] " Volcanoes (http:/ / pubs. usgs. gov/ gip/ volc/ text. html)". U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey.
[6] " Mountains of fire: the nature of volcanoes (http:/ / books. google. com/ books?id=-P83AAAAIAAJ& pg=PA7& dq& hl=en#v=onepage&
q=& f=false)". Robert Wayne Decker, Barbara Decker (1991). p.7. ISBN 0521312906
[7] " Volcanoes (http:/ / www. esa. int/ SPECIALS/ Space_for_our_climate/ SEM3XU2VQUD_0. html)". European Space Agency.
[8] " Volcano Environments (http:/ / pubs. usgs. gov/ gip/ volc/ environments. html)". U.S. Geological Survey.
[9] " Sensing Remote Volcanoes (http:/ / earthobservatory. nasa. gov/ Features/ monvoc/ )". NASA Earth Observatory.
[10] " Volcanoes (http:/ / www. alertnet. org/ db/ crisisprofiles/ VOLCANO. htm)". Reuters. December 12, 2009.
[11] Chesner, C.A.; Westgate, J.A.; Rose, W.I.; Drake, R.; Deino, A. (March 1991). "Eruptive History of Earth's Largest Quaternary caldera
(Toba, Indonesia) Clarified" (http:/ / www. geo. mtu. edu/ ~raman/ papers/ ChesnerGeology. pdf). Geology 19: 200–203.
doi:10.1130/0091-7613(1991)019<0200:EHOESL>2.3.CO;2. . Retrieved 2010-01-20.
[12] University of California – Davis (2008, April 25). "Volcanic Eruption Of 1600 Caused Global Disruption" (http:/ / www. sciencedaily. com/
releases/ 2008/ 04/ 080423135236. htm). ScienceDaily. .
[13] " Supervolcano Eruption – In Sumatra – Deforested India 73,000 Years Ago (http:/ / www. sciencedaily. com/ releases/ 2009/ 11/
091123142739. htm)". ScienceDaily. November 24, 2009.
[14] " The new batch – 150,000 years ago (http:/ / www. bbc. co. uk/ sn/ prehistoric_life/ human/ human_evolution/ new_batch1. shtml)". BBC –
Science & Nature – The evolution of man.
[15] "When humans faced extinction" (http:/ / news. bbc. co. uk/ 2/ hi/ science/ nature/ 2975862. stm). BBC. 2003-06-09. . Retrieved
[16] " Volcanoes in human history: the far-reaching effects of major eruptions (http:/ / books. google. com/ books?id=ipNcKc0Mv5IC&
pg=PA155& dq& hl=en#v=onepage& q=& f=false)". Jelle Zeilinga de Boer, Donald Theodore Sanders (2002). Princeton University Press.
p.155. ISBN 0691050813
[17] Oppenheimer, Clive (2003). "Climatic, environmental and human consequences of the largest known historic eruption: Tambora volcano
(Indonesia) 1815". Progress in Physical Geography 27 (2): 230–259. doi:10.1191/0309133303pp379ra.
[18] " Ó Gráda, C.: Famine: A Short History (http:/ / press. princeton. edu/ chapters/ s8857. html)". Princeton University Press.
[19] " Yellowstone's Super Sister (http:/ / dsc. discovery. com/ convergence/ supervolcano/ others/ others_07. html)". Discovery Channel.
[20] Benton M J (2005). When Life Nearly Died: The Greatest Mass Extinction of All Time. Thames & Hudson. ISBN 978-0500285732.
[21] "Volcanic Gases and Their Effects" (http:/ / volcanoes. usgs. gov/ Hazards/ What/ VolGas/ volgas. html). U.S. Geological Survey. .
Retrieved 2007-06-16.
[22] M. A. Wieczorek, B. L. Jolliff, A. Khan, M. E. Pritchard, B. P. Weiss, J. G. Williams, L. L. Hood, K. Righter, C. R. Neal, C. K. Shearer, I.
S. McCallum, S. Tompkins, B. R. Hawke, C. Peterson, J, J. Gillis, B. Bussey (2006). "The Constitution and Structure of the Lunar Interior".
Reviews in Mineralogy and Geochemistry 60 (1): 221–364. doi:10.2138/rmg.2006.60.3.
[23] D.L. Bindschadler (1995). "Magellan: A new view of Venus' geology and geophysics" (http:/ / www. agu. org/ journals/ rg/ rg9504S/
95RG00281/ index. html). American Geophysical Union. . Retrieved 2006-09-04.
[24] "Glacial, volcanic and fluvial activity on Mars: latest images" (http:/ / www. esa. int/ esaMI/ Mars_Express/ SEMLF6D3M5E_0. html).
European Space Agency. 2005-02-25. . Retrieved 2006-08-17.
[25] Exceptionally Bright Eruption on lo Rivals Largest in Solar System, Nov. 13, 2002 (http:/ / www2. keck. hawaii. edu/ news/ archive/
eruption/ )
[26] "Cassini Finds an Atmosphere on Saturn's Moon Enceladus'" (http:/ / www. pparc. ac. uk/ Nw/ enceladus. asp). . Retrieved
[27] "Hydrocarbon volcano discovered on Titan" (http:/ / www. newscientist. com/ article. ns?id=dn7489). June 8, 2005. .
Retrieved 2010-10-24.
[28] Jaggard, Victoria (2010-02-05). ""Super Earth" May Really Be New Planet Type: Super-Io" (http:/ / news. nationalgeographic. com/ news/
2010/ 02/ 100205-new-type-planet-corot-7b-io/ ). National Geographic web site daily news (http:/ / news. nationalgeographic. com/ news/ ).
National Geographic Society. . Retrieved 2010-03-11.
[29] Micheal Williams (11-2007). "Hearts of fire". Morning Calm (Korean Air Lines Co., Ltd.) (11-2007): 6.
Volcano 198

Further reading
• Cas, R.A.F. and J.V. Wright, 1987. Volcanic Successions. Unwin Hyman Inc. 528p. ISBN 0-04-552022-4
• Macdonald, Gordon and Agatin T. Abbott. (1970). Volcanoes in the Sea. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu.
441 p.
• Marti, Joan and Ernst, Gerald. (2005). Volcanoes and the Environment. Cambridge University Press.
ISBN 0-521-59254-2.
• Ollier, Cliff. (1988). Volcanoes. Basil Blackwell, Oxford, UK, ISBN 0-631-15664-X (hardback), ISBN
0-631-15977-0 (paperback).
• Sigurðsson, Haraldur, ed. (1999) Encyclopedia of Volcanoes. Academic Press. ISBN 0-12-643140-X. This is a
reference aimed at geologists, but many articles are accessible to non-professionals.

External links
• Volcanoes ( at the Open Directory
• Volcano Eruptions, Ancient & Modern (
volcano-eruptions-ancient--modern) slideshow by Life magazine
• Volcano (, U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency
• Volcano World (

Global climate model

A General Circulation Model (GCM)
is a mathematical model of the general
circulation of a planetary atmosphere
or ocean and based on the
Navier–Stokes equations on a rotating
sphere with thermodynamic terms for
various energy sources (radiation,
latent heat). These equations are the
basis for complex computer programs
commonly used for simulating the
atmosphere or ocean of the Earth.
Atmospheric and Oceanic GCMs
(AGCM and OGCM) are key
components of Global Climate
Climate models are systems of differential equations based on the basic laws of physics,
Models along with sea ice and
fluid motion, and chemistry. To “run” a model, scientists divide the planet into a
land-surface components. GCMs and 3-dimensional grid, apply the basic equations, and evaluate the results. Atmospheric
global climate models are widely models calculate winds, heat transfer, radiation, relative humidity, and surface hydrology
applied for weather forecasting, within each grid and evaluate interactions with neighboring points. The winds, heat
transfer and other quantities are only used to compute a final result so they do not need to
understanding the climate, and
correspond to real world conditions, and in some numerical schemes fictitious quantities
projecting climate change. Versions are introduced.
designed for decade to century time
Global climate model 199

scale climate applications were originally created by Syukuro Manabe and Kirk Bryan at the Geophysical Fluid
Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, New Jersey.[1] These computationally intensive numerical models are based on
the integration of a variety of fluid dynamical, chemical, and sometimes biological equations.

In 1956, Norman Phillips developed a mathematical model which could realistically depict monthly and seasonal
patterns in the troposphere, which became the first successful climate model.[2] [3] Following Phillips's work, several
groups began working to create general circulation models.[4] The first general circulation climate model that
combined both oceanic and atmospheric processes was developed in the late 1960s at the NOAA Geophysical Fluid
Dynamics Laboratory.[5] By the early 1980s, the United States' National Center for Atmospheric Research had
developed the Community Atmosphere Model; this model has been continuously refined into the 2000s.[6] In 1986,
efforts began to initialize and model soil and vegetation types, which led to more realistic forecasts.[7] Coupled
ocean-atmosphere climate models such as the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research's HadCM3 model
are currently being used as inputs for climate change studies.[4] The importance of gravity waves was neglected
within these models until the mid 1980s. Now, gravity waves are required within global climate models in order to
properly simulate regional and global scale circulations, though their broad spectrum makes their incorporation

Atmospheric vs Ocean models

There are both atmospheric GCMs (AGCMs) and oceanic GCMs (OGCMs). An AGCM and an OGCM can be
coupled together to form an atmosphere-ocean coupled general circulation model (CGCM or AOGCM). With the
addition of other components (such as a sea ice model or a model for evapotranspiration over land), the AOGCM
becomes the basis for a full climate model. Within this structure, different variations can exist, and their varying
response to climate change may be studied (e.g., Sun and Hansen, 2003).

Modeling trends
A recent trend in GCMs is to apply them as components of Earth System Models, e.g. by coupling to ice sheet
models for the dynamics of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, and one or more chemical transport models
(CTMs) for species important to climate. Thus a carbon CTM may allow a GCM to better predict changes in carbon
dioxide concentrations resulting from changes in anthropogenic emissions. In addition, this approach allows
accounting for inter-system feedback: e.g. chemistry-climate models allow the possible effects of climate change on
the recovery of the ozone hole to be studied.[9]
Climate prediction uncertainties depend on uncertainties in chemical, physical, and social models (see IPCC
scenarios below).[10] Progress has been made in incorporating more realistic chemistry and physics in the models,
but significant uncertainties and unknowns remain, especially regarding the future course of human population,
industry, and technology.
Note that many simpler levels of climate model exist; some are of only heuristic interest, while others continue to be
scientifically relevant.
Global climate model 200

Model structure
Three-dimensional (more properly four-dimensional) GCMs discretise the equations for fluid motion and integrate
these forward in time. They also contain parametrisations for processes - such as convection - that occur on scales
too small to be resolved directly. More sophisticated models may include representations of the carbon and other
A simple general circulation model (SGCM), a minimal GCM, consists of a dynamical core that relates material
properties such as temperature to dynamical properties such as pressure and velocity. Examples are programs that
solve the primitive equations, given energy input into the model, and energy dissipation in the form of
scale-dependent friction, so that atmospheric waves with the highest wavenumbers are the ones most strongly
attenuated. Such models may be used to study atmospheric processes within a simplified framework but are not
suitable for future climate projections.
Atmospheric GCMs (AGCMs) model the atmosphere (and typically contain a land-surface model as well) and
impose sea surface temperatures (SSTs). A large amount of information including model documentation is available
from AMIP.[11] They may include atmospheric chemistry.
• AGCMs consist of a dynamical core which integrates the equations of fluid motion, typically for:
• surface pressure
• horizontal components of velocity in layers
• temperature and water vapor in layers
• There is generally a radiation code, split into solar/short wave and terrestrial/infra-red/long wave
• Parametrizations are used to include the effects of various processes. All modern AGCMs include
parameterizations for:
• convection
• land surface processes, albedo and hydrology
• cloud cover
A GCM contains a number of prognostic equations that are stepped forward in time (typically winds, temperature,
moisture, and surface pressure) together with a number of diagnostic equations that are evaluated from the
simultaneous values of the variables. As an example, pressure at any height can be diagnosed by applying the
hydrostatic equation to the predicted surface pressure and the predicted values of temperature between the surface
and the height of interest. The pressure diagnosed in this way then is used to compute the pressure gradient force in
the time-dependent equation for the winds.
Oceanic GCMs (OGCMs) model the ocean (with fluxes from the atmosphere imposed) and may or may not contain
a sea ice model. For example, the standard resolution of HadOM3 is 1.25 degrees in latitude and longitude, with 20
vertical levels, leading to approximately 1,500,000 variables.
Coupled atmosphere-ocean GCMs (AOGCMs) (e.g. HadCM3, GFDL CM2.X) combine the two models. They
thus have the advantage of removing the need to specify fluxes across the interface of the ocean surface. These
models are the basis for sophisticated model predictions of future climate, such as are discussed by the IPCC.
AOGCMs represent the pinnacle of complexity in climate models and internalise as many processes as possible.
They are the only tools that could provide detailed regional predictions of future climate change. However, they are
still under development. The simpler models are generally susceptible to simple analysis and their results are
generally easy to understand. AOGCMs, by contrast, are often nearly as hard to analyse as the real climate system.
Global climate model 201

Model grids
The fluid equations for AGCMs are discretised using either the finite difference method or the spectral method. For
finite differences, a grid is imposed on the atmosphere. The simplest grid uses constant angular grid spacing (i.e., a
latitude / longitude grid), however, more sophisticated non-rectantangular grids (e.g., icohedral) and grids of variable
resolution[12] are more often used.[13] The "LMDz" model can be arranged to give high resolution over any given
section of the planet. HadGEM1 (and other ocean models) use an ocean grid with higher resolution in the tropics to
help resolve processes believed to be important for ENSO. Spectral models generally use a gaussian grid, because of
the mathematics of transformation between spectral and grid-point space. Typical AGCM resolutions are between 1
and 5 degrees in latitude or longitude: the Hadley Centre model HadCM3, for example, uses 3.75 in longitude and
2.5 degrees in latitude, giving a grid of 96 by 73 points (96 x 72 for some variables); and has 19 levels in the vertical.
This results in approximately 500,000 "basic" variables, since each grid point has four variables (u,v, T, Q), though a
full count would give more (clouds; soil levels). HadGEM1 uses a grid of 1.875 degrees in longitude and 1.25 in
latitude in the atmosphere; HiGEM, a high-resolution variant, uses 1.25 x 0.83 degrees respectively.[14] These
resolutions are lower than is typically used for weather forecasting.[15] Ocean resolutions tend to be higher, for
example HadCM3 has 6 ocean grid points per atmospheric grid point in the horizontal.
For a standard finite difference model, uniform gridlines converge towards the poles. This would lead to
computational instabilities (see CFL condition) and so the model variables must be filtered along lines of latitude
close to the poles. Ocean models suffer from this problem too, unless a rotated grid is used in which the North Pole
is shifted onto a nearby landmass. Spectral models do not suffer from this problem. There are experiments using
geodesic grids[16] and icosahedral grids, which (being more uniform) do not have pole-problems. Another approach
to solving the grid spacing problem is to deform a Cartesian cube such that it covers the surface of a sphere.[17]

Flux correction
Early generations of AOGCMs required a somewhat ad hoc process of "flux correction" to achieve a stable climate.
The danger, however, is that a model may need flux corrections because of unrealistically strong feedback processes
that result in a transition to a different climate state. As a result, there has been strong movement away from the use
of flux corrections, and the vast majority of models used in the current round of the Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change do not use them. The model improvements that now make flux corrections unnecessary are various,
but include improved ocean physics, improved resolution in both atmosphere and ocean, and more physically
consistent coupling between atmosphere and ocean models.

Moist convection causes the release of latent heat and is important to the Earth's energy budget. Convection occurs
on too small a scale to be resolved by climate models, and hence must be parameterised. This has been done since
the earliest days of climate modelling, in the 1950s. Akio Arakawa did much of the early work and variants of his
scheme are still used [18] although there is a variety of different schemes now in use [19] [20] [21]. The behavior of
clouds is still poorly understood and is parametrized. [22].
Global climate model 202

Output variables
Most models include software to diagnose a wide range of variables for comparison with observations or study of
atmospheric processes. An example is the 1.5 metre temperature, which is the standard height for near-surface
observations of air temperature. This temperature is not directly predicted from the model but is deduced from the
surface and lowest-model-layer temperatures. Other software is used for creating plots and animations.

Projections of future climate change

Coupled ocean-atmosphere GCMs use
transient climate simulations to
project/predict future temperature
changes under various scenarios. These
can be idealised scenarios (most
commonly, CO2 increasing at 1%/yr)
or more realistic (usually the "IS92a"
or more recently the SRES scenarios).
Which scenarios should be considered
most realistic is currently uncertain, as
the projections of future CO2 (and
sulphate) emission are themselves

The 2001 IPCC Third Assessment

Report figure 9.3 [23] shows the global Shows the distribution of warming during the late 21st century predicted by the HadCM3
mean response of 19 different coupled climate model (one of those used by the IPCC) if a business-as-usual scenario is assumed
models to an idealised experiment in for economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions. The average warming predicted by
this model is 3.0 °C.
which CO2 is increased at 1% per year
[24]. Figure 9.5 [25] shows the response
of a smaller number of models to more realistic forcing. For the 7 climate models shown there, the temperature
change to 2100 varies from 2 to 4.5 °C with a median of about 3 °C.

Future scenarios do not include unknowable events - for example, volcanic eruptions or changes in solar forcing.
These effects are believed to be small in comparison to GHG forcing in the long term, but large volcanic eruptions,
for example, are known to exert a temporary cooling effect.
Human emissions of GHGs are an external input to the models, although it would be possible to couple in an
economic model to provide these as well. Atmospheric GHG levels are usually supplied as an input, though it is
possible to include a carbon cycle model including land vegetation and oceanic processes to calculate GHG levels.

Emissions scenarios
For the six SRES marker scenarios, IPCC (2007:7-8) gave a "best estimate" of global mean temperature increase
(2090-2099 relative to the period 1980-1999) that ranged from 1.8 °C to 4.0 °C. Over the same time period, the
"likely" range (greater than 66% probability, based on expert judgement) for these scenarios was for a global mean
temperature increase of between 1.1 and 6.4 °C.[26]
Pope (2008) described a study where climate change projections were made using several different emission
scenarios.[27] In a scenario where global emissions start to decrease by 2010 and then decline at a sustained rate of
3% per year, the likely global average temperature increase was predicted to be 1.7 °C above pre-industrial levels by
2050, rising to around 2 °C by 2100. In a projection designed to simulate a future where no efforts are made to
reduce global emissions, the likely rise in global average temperature was predicted to be 5.5 °C by 2100. A rise as
Global climate model 203

high as 7 °C was thought possible but less likely.

Sokolov et al. (2009) examined a scenario designed to simulate a future where there is no policy to reduce emissions.
In their integrated model, this scenario resulted in a median warming over land (2090-2099 relative to the period
1980-1999) of 5.1 °C. Under the same emissions scenario but with different modeling of the future climate, the
predicted median warming was 4.1 °C.[28]

Accuracy of models that predict global warming

AOGCMs represent the pinnacle of complexity in climate
models and internalise as many processes as possible.
However, they are still under development and
uncertainties remain. They may be coupled to models of
other processes, such as the carbon cycle, so as to better
model feedback effects. Most recent simulations show
"plausible" agreement with the measured temperature
anomalies over the past 150 years, when forced by
observed changes in greenhouse gases and aerosols, but
better agreement is achieved when natural forcings are
also included.[29] [30] Mean global temperatures from observations and two climate
No model – whether a wind tunnel model for designing
aircraft, or a climate model for projecting global warming
– perfectly reproduces the system being modeled. Such
inherently imperfect models may nevertheless produce
useful results. In this context, GCMs are capable of
reproducing the general features of the observed global
temperature over the past century.[31]

A debate over how to reconcile climate model predictions

that upper air (tropospheric) warming should be greater
than surface warming, with observations some of which
appeared to show otherwise [32] now appears to have been SST errors in HadCM3
resolved in favour of the models, following revisions to
the data: see satellite temperature record.

The effects of clouds are a significant area of uncertainty

in climate models. Clouds have competing effects on the
climate. One of the roles that clouds play in climate is in
cooling the surface by reflecting sunlight back into space;
another is warming by increasing the amount of infrared
radiation emitted from the atmosphere to the surface.[33]
In the 2001 IPCC report on climate change, the possible
changes in cloud cover were highlighted as one of the
dominant uncertainties in predicting future climate
change; see also [34].

Thousands of climate researchers around the world use

climate models to understand the climate system. There North American precipitation from various models.
Global climate model 204

are thousands of papers published about model-based

studies in peer-reviewed journals - and a part of this
research is work improving the models. Improvement has
been difficult but steady (most obviously, state of the art
AOGCMs no longer require flux correction), and
progress has sometimes led to discovering new
In 2000, a comparison between measurements and dozens
of GCM simulations of ENSO-driven tropical
precipitation, water vapor, temperature, and outgoing
longwave radiation found similarity between
Temperature predictions from some climate models assuming the
measurements and simulation of most factors. However
SRES A2 emissions scenario.
the simulated change in precipitation was about
one-fourth less than what was observed. Errors in
simulated precipitation imply errors in other processes, such as errors in the evaporation rate that provides moisture
to create precipitation. The other possibility is that the satellite-based measurements are in error. Either indicates
progress is required in order to monitor and predict such changes. [35]
A more complete discussion of climate models is provided by the IPCC TAR chapter 8, Model Evaluation
• The model mean exhibits good agreement with observations.
• The individual models often exhibit worse agreement with observations.
• Many of the non-flux adjusted models suffered from unrealistic climate drift up to about 1°C/century in global
mean surface temperature.
• The errors in model-mean surface air temperature rarely exceed 1 °C over the oceans and 5 °C over the
continents; precipitation and sea level pressure errors are relatively greater but the magnitudes and patterns of
these quantities are recognisably similar to observations.
• Surface air temperature is particularly well simulated, with nearly all models closely matching the observed
magnitude of variance and exhibiting a correlation > 0.95 with the observations.
• Simulated variance of sea level pressure and precipitation is within ±25% of observed.
• All models have shortcomings in their simulations of the present day climate of the stratosphere, which might
limit the accuracy of predictions of future climate change.
• There is a tendency for the models to show a global mean cold bias at all levels.
• There is a large scatter in the tropical temperatures.
• The polar night jets in most models are inclined poleward with height, in noticeable contrast to an equatorward
inclination of the observed jet.
• There is a differing degree of separation in the models between the winter sub-tropical jet and the polar night
• For nearly all models the r.m.s. error in zonal- and annual-mean surface air temperature is small compared with
its natural variability.
• There are problems in simulating natural seasonal variability.( 2000) [37]
• In flux-adjusted models, seasonal variations are simulated to within 2 K of observed values over the oceans.
The corresponding average over non-flux-adjusted models shows errors up to about 6 K in extensive ocean
• Near-surface land temperature errors are substantial in the average over flux-adjusted models, which
systematically underestimates (by about 5 K) temperature in areas of elevated terrain. The corresponding
average over non-flux-adjusted models forms a similar error pattern (with somewhat increased amplitude)
Global climate model 205

over land.
• In Southern Ocean mid-latitudes, the non-flux-adjusted models overestimate the magnitude of
January-minus-July temperature differences by ~5 K due to an overestimate of summer (January)
near-surface temperature. This error is common to five of the eight non-flux-adjusted models.
• Over Northern Hemisphere mid-latitude land areas, zonal mean differences between July and January
temperatures simulated by the non-flux-adjusted models show a greater spread (positive and negative) about
observed values than results from the flux-adjusted models.
• The ability of coupled GCMs to simulate a reasonable seasonal cycle is a necessary condition for
confidence in their prediction of long-term climatic changes (such as global warming), but it is not a
sufficient condition unless the seasonal cycle and long-term changes involve similar climatic processes.
• Coupled climate models do not simulate with reasonable accuracy clouds and some related hydrological processes
(in particular those involving upper tropospheric humidity). Problems in the simulation of clouds and upper
tropospheric humidity, remain worrisome because the associated processes account for most of the uncertainty in
climate model simulations of anthropogenic change.
The precise magnitude of future changes in climate is still uncertain [38]; for the end of the 21st century (2071 to
2100), for SRES scenario A2, the change of global average SAT change from AOGCMs compared with 1961 to
1990 is +3.0 °C (4.8 °F) and the range is +1.3 to +4.5 °C (+2 to +7.2 °F).
Forecasts of climate change are inevitably uncertain. Even the degree of uncertainty is uncertain, a problem that
stems from the fact that these climate models do not necessarily span the full range of known climate system
behavior. [39]

Relation to weather forecasting

The global climate models used for climate projections are very similar in structure to (and often share computer
code with) numerical models for weather prediction but are nonetheless logically distinct.
Most weather forecasting is done on the basis of interpreting the output of numerical model results. Since forecasts
are short—typically a few days or a week—such models do not usually contain an ocean model but rely on imposed
SSTs. They also require accurate initial conditions to begin the forecast—typically these are taken from the output of
a previous forecast, with observations blended in. Because the results are needed quickly the predictions must be run
in a few hours; but because they only need to cover a week of real time these predictions can be run at higher
resolution than in climate mode. Currently the ECMWF runs at 40 km (25 mi) resolution [40] as opposed to the
100-to-200 km (62-to-120 mi) scale used by typical climate models. Often nested models are run forced by the
global models for boundary conditions, to achieve higher local resolution: for example, the Met Office runs a
mesoscale model with an 11 km (6.8 mi) resolution [41] covering the UK, and various agencies in the U.S. also run
nested models such as the NGM and NAM models. Like most global numerical weather prediction models such as
the GFS, global climate models are often spectral models [42] instead of grid models. Spectral models are often used
for global models because some computations in modeling can be performed faster thus reducing the time needed to
run the model simulation.
Global climate model 206

Computations involved
Climate models use quantitative methods to simulate the interactions of the atmosphere, oceans, land surface, and
ice. They are used for a variety of purposes from study of the dynamics of the climate system to projections of future
All climate models take account of incoming energy as short wave electromagnetic radiation, chiefly visible and
short-wave (near) infrared, as well as outgoing energy as long wave (far) infrared electromagnetic radiation from the
earth. Any imbalance results in a change in temperature.
The most talked-about models of recent years have been those relating temperature to emissions of carbon dioxide
(see greenhouse gas). These models project an upward trend in the surface temperature record, as well as a more
rapid increase in temperature at higher altitudes.[43]
Three (or more properly, four since time is also considered) dimensional GCM's discretise the equations for fluid
motion and energy transfer and integrate these over time. They also contain parametrisations for processes—such as
convection—that occur on scales too small to be resolved directly.
Atmospheric GCMs (AGCMs) model the atmosphere and impose sea surface temperatures as boundary conditions.
Coupled atmosphere-ocean GCMs (AOGCMs, e.g. HadCM3, EdGCM, GFDL CM2.X, ARPEGE-Climat[44] )
combine the two models.
Models can range from relatively simple to quite complex:
• A simple radiant heat transfer model that treats the earth as a single point and averages outgoing energy
• this can be expanded vertically (radiative-convective models), or horizontally
• finally, (coupled) atmosphere–ocean–sea ice global climate models discretise and solve the full equations for
mass and energy transfer and radiant exchange.
This is not a full list; for example "box models" can be written to treat flows across and within ocean basins.
Furthermore, other types of modelling can be interlinked, such as land use, allowing researchers to predict the
interaction between climate and ecosystems.

Box models
Box models are simplified versions of complex systems, reducing them to boxes (or reservoirs) linked by fluxes.
The boxes are assumed to be mixed homogeneously. Within a given box, the concentration of any chemical species
is therefore uniform. However, the abundance of a species within a given box may vary as a function of time due to
the input to (or loss from) the box or due to the production, consumption or decay of this species within the box.
Simple box models, i.e. box model with a small number of boxes whose properties (e.g. their volume) do not change
with time, are often useful to derive analytical formulas describing the dynamics and steady-state abundance of a
species. More complex box models are usually solved using numerical techniques.
Box models are used extensively to model environmental systems or ecosystems and in studies of ocean circulation
and the carbon cycle.[45]
Global climate model 207

Zero-dimensional models
A very simple model of the radiative equilibrium of the Earth is:

• the left hand side represents the incoming energy from the Sun
• the right hand side represents the outgoing energy from the Earth, calculated from the Stefan-Boltzmann law
assuming a constant radiative temperature, T, that is to be found,
• S is the solar constant - the incoming solar radiation per unit area—about 1367 W·m−2
• is the Earth's average albedo, measured to be 0.3.[46] [47]
• r is Earth's radius—approximately 6.371×106m
• π is the mathematical constant (3.141...)
• is the Stefan-Boltzmann constant—approximately 5.67×10−8 J·K−4·m−2·s−1
• is the effective emissivity of earth, about 0.612
The constant πr2 can be factored out, giving

Solving for the temperature,

This yields an average earth temperature of 288 K (15 °C; 59 °F).[48] This is because the above equation represents
the effective radiative temperature of the Earth (including the clouds and atmosphere). The use of effective
emissivity and albedo account for the greenhouse effect.
This very simple model is quite instructive. For example, it easily determines the effect on average earth temperature
of changes in solar constant or change of albedo or effective earth emissivity. Using the simple formula, the percent
change of the average amount of each parameter, considered independently, to cause a one degree Celsius change in
steady-state average earth temperature is as follows:
• Solar constant 1.4%
• Albedo 3.3%
• Effective emissivity 1.4%
The average emissivity of the earth is readily estimated from available data. The emissivities of terrestrial surfaces
are all in the range of 0.96 to 0.99[49] [50] (except for some small desert areas which may be as low as 0.7). Clouds,
however, which cover about half of the earth’s surface, have an average emissivity of about 0.5[51] (which must be
reduced by the fourth power of the ratio of cloud absolute temperature to average earth absolute temperature) and an
average cloud temperature of about 258 K (−15 °C; 5 °F).[52] Taking all this properly into account results in an
effective earth emissivity of about 0.64 (earth average temperature 285 K (12 °C; 53 °F)).
This simple model readily determines the effect of changes in solar output or change of earth albedo or effective
earth emissivity on average earth temperature. It says nothing, however about what might cause these things to
change. Zero-dimensional models do not address the temperature distribution on the earth or the factors that move
energy about the earth.
Global climate model 208

Radiative-Convective Models
The zero-dimensional model above, using the solar constant and given average earth temperature, determines the
effective earth emissivity of long wave radiation emitted to space. This can be refined in the vertical to a
zero-dimensional radiative-convective model, which considers two processes of energy transport:
• upwelling and downwelling radiative transfer through atmospheric layers that both absorb and emit infrared
• upward transport of heat by convection (especially important in the lower troposphere).
The radiative-convective models have advantages over the simple model: they can determine the effects of varying
greenhouse gas concentrations on effective emissivity and therefore the surface temperature. But added parameters
are needed to determine local emissivity and albedo and address the factors that move energy about the earth.
• "Effect of Ice-Albedo Feedback on Global Sensitivity in a One-Dimensional Radiative-Convective Climate
Model" [53]

Higher Dimension Models

The zero-dimensional model may be expanded to consider the energy transported horizontally in the atmosphere.
This kind of model may well be zonally averaged. This model has the advantage of allowing a rational dependence
of local albedo and emissivity on temperature - the poles can be allowed to be icy and the equator warm - but the
lack of true dynamics means that horizontal transports have to be specified.

EMICs (Earth-system Models of Intermediate Complexity)

Depending on the nature of questions asked and the pertinent time scales, there are, on the one extreme, conceptual,
more inductive models, and, on the other extreme, general circulation models operating at the highest spatial and
temporal resolution currently feasible. Models of intermediate complexity bridge the gap. One example is the
Climber-3 model. Its atmosphere is a 2.5-dimensional statistical-dynamical model with 7.5° × 22.5° resolution and
time step of 1/2 a day; the ocean is MOM-3 (Modular Ocean Model) with a 3.75° × 3.75° grid and 24 vertical levels.

Climate modellers
A climate modeller is a person who designs, develops, implements, tests, maintains or exploits climate models.
There are three major types of institutions where a climate modeller may be found:
• In a national meteorological service. Most national weather services have at least a climatology section.
• In a university. Departments that may have climate modellers on staff include atmospheric sciences, meteorology,
climatology, or geography, amongst others.
• In national or international research laboratories specialising in this field, such as the National Center for
Atmospheric Research (NCAR, in Boulder, Colorado, USA), the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory
(GFDL, in Princeton, New Jersey, USA), the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research (in Exeter, UK),
the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, Germany, or the Institut Pierre-Simon Laplace (IPSL in
Paris, France). The World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), hosted by the World Meteorological
Organization (WMO), coordinates research activities on climate modelling worldwide.
Global climate model 209

Climate models on the web

• National Operational Model Archive and Distribution System [54] (NOMADS) is a NOAA Web-services based
project providing both real-time and retrospective format independent access to climate and weather model data.
• Dapper/DChart [55] — plot and download model data referenced by the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) of the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
• — Hadley Centre for
Climate Prediction and Research — general info on their models
• — NCAR/UCAR Community Climate System Model (CCSM)
• — do it yourself climate prediction
• — the primary research GCM developed by NASA/GISS (Goddard
Institute for Space Studies)
• — the original NASA/GISS global climate model (GCM) with a user-friendly
interface for PCs and Macs
• — CCCma model info and interface to retrieve model data
• — NOAA / Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory CM2 global
climate model info and model output data files
• — University of Victoria Global climate model, free for download. Leading
researcher was a contributing author to the recent IPCC report on climate change.

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[2] Phillips, Norman A. (April 1956). "The general circulation of the atmosphere: a numerical experiment". Quarterly Journal of the Royal
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[3] Cox, John D. (2002). Storm Watchers. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.. p. 210. ISBN 047138108X.
[4] Lynch, Peter (2006). "The ENIAC Integrations". The Emergence of Numerical Weather Prediction. Cambridge University Press.
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[5] http:/ / celebrating200years. noaa. gov/ breakthroughs/ climate_model/ welcome. html
[6] Collins, William D.; et al. (June 2004). "Description of the NCAR Community Atmosphere Model (CAM 3.0)" (http:/ / www. cesm. ucar.
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[7] Xue, Yongkang and Michael J. Fennessey (1996-03-20). "Impact of vegetation properties on U. S. summer weather prediction" (http:/ / www.
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[16] "Climate Model Will Be First To Use A Geodesic Grid" (http:/ / www. unisci. com/ stories/ 20013/ 0924011. htm). Daly University Science
News. 24 September 2001. . Retrieved 3 May 2011.
[17] "Gridding the sphere" (http:/ / mitgcm. org/ projects/ cubedsphere/ ). MIT GCM. . Retrieved 9 September 2010.
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Global climate model 210

[20] http:/ / www-pcmdi. llnl. gov/ projects/ modeldoc/ amip/ 10Tbl2. 10. html
[21] http:/ / rainbow. llnl. gov/ projects/ modeldoc/ cmip/ table4. html
[22] http:/ / www. aip. org/ history/ climate/ GCM. htm
[23] http:/ / www. grida. no/ climate/ ipcc_tar/ wg1/ fig9-3. htm
[24] http:/ / www. grida. no/ climate/ ipcc_tar/ wg1/ 348. htm#fig93
[25] http:/ / www. grida. no/ climate/ ipcc_tar/ wg1/ fig9-5. htm
[26] IPCC (2007). "Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Core Writing Team, Pachauri, R.K and Reisinger, A. (eds.) (http:/ / www. ipcc. ch/
publications_and_data/ publications_ipcc_fourth_assessment_report_synthesis_report. htm)"]. IPCC, Geneva, Switzerland. pp. 104. .
Retrieved 2009-05-20.
[27] Pope, V. (2008). "Met Office: The scientific evidence for early action on climate change" (http:/ / www. metoffice. gov. uk/ climatechange/
policymakers/ action/ evidence. html). Met Office website. . Retrieved 2009-03-07.
[28] Sokolov, A.P. et al. (2009). "Probabilistic Forecast for 21st Century Climate Based on Uncertainties in Emissions (without Policy) and
Climate Parameters" (http:/ / ams. allenpress. com/ perlserv/ ?request=get-abstract& doi=10. 1175/ 2009JCLI2863. 1). Journal of Climate 22
(19): 5175–5204. doi:10.1175/2009JCLI2863.1. . Retrieved 2009-01-12.
[29] "Climate Change 2001: Working Group I: The Scientific Basis" (http:/ / www. grida. no/ climate/ ipcc_tar/ wg1/ figspm-4. htm). .
[30] "Simulated global warming 1860–2000" (http:/ / www. hadleycentre. gov. uk/ research/ hadleycentre/ pubs/ talks/ sld017. html). .
[31] http:/ / www. grida. no/ climate/ ipcc_tar/ wg1/ figspm-4. htm
[32] http:/ / web. archive. org/ web/ 20060420125451/ http:/ / www4. nationalacademies. org/ news. nsf/ isbn/ 0309068916?OpenDocument
[33] http:/ / liftoff. msfc. nasa. gov/ academy/ space/ greenhouse. html
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[35] http:/ / ams. allenpress. com/ amsonline/ ?request=get-abstract& doi=10. 1175%2F1520-0442(2000)013%3C0538:TSOTTH%3E2. 0.
[36] http:/ / www. grida. no/ climate/ ipcc_tar/ wg1/ 308. htm
[37] http:/ / pubs. giss. nasa. gov/ abstracts/ 2000/ CoveyAbeOuchi. html
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[39] http:/ / epw. senate. gov/ repwhitepapers/ ClimateChange. pdf
[40] http:/ / www. ecmwf. int/ index_forecasts. html
[41] http:/ / www. metoffice. gov. uk/ research/ nwp/ numerical/ operational/ index. html
[42] http:/ / www-das. uwyo. edu/ ~geerts/ cwx/ notes/ chap12/ nwp_gcm. html
[43] IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007 Chapter 10: Global Climate Projections (http:/ / www. ipcc. ch/
publications_and_data/ ar4/ wg1/ en/ ch10. html)
[44] http:/ / www. cnrm. meteo. fr/ gmgec/ site_engl/ arpege/ arpege_en. html
[45] Sarmiento, J.L.; Toggweiler, J.R. (1984). "A new model for the role of the oceans in determining atmospheric P CO 2" (http:/ / www.
nature. com/ nature/ journal/ v308/ n5960/ abs/ 308621a0. html). Nature 308 (5960): 621–4. doi:10.1038/308621a0. .
[46] Goode, P. R.; et al. (2001). "Earthshine Observations of the Earth’s Reflectance". Geophys. Res. Lett. 28 (9): 1671–4.
Bibcode 2001GeoRL..28.1671G. doi:10.1029/2000GL012580.
[47] "Scientists Watch Dark Side of the Moon to Monitor Earth's Climate" (http:/ / www. agu. org/ sci_soc/ prrl/ prrl0113. html). American
Geophysical Union. April 17, 2001. .
[48] http:/ / eospso. gsfc. nasa. gov/ ftp_docs/ lithographs/ CERES_litho. pdf
[49] http:/ / www. icess. ucsb. edu/ modis/ EMIS/ html/ seawater. html
[50] Jin M, Liang S (15 June 2006). "An Improved Land Surface Emissivity Parameter for Land Surface Models Using Global Remote Sensing
Observations" (http:/ / www. glue. umd. edu/ ~sliang/ papers/ Jin2006. emissivity. pdf). J. Climate 19 (12): 2867–81.
doi:10.1175/JCLI3720.1. .
[51] T.R. Shippert, S.A. Clough, P.D. Brown, W.L. Smith, R.O. Knuteson, and S.A. Ackerman. "Spectral Cloud Emissivities from
LBLRTM/AERI QME" (http:/ / www. arm. gov/ publications/ proceedings/ conf08/ extended_abs/ shippert_tr. pdf). Proceedings of the Eighth
Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Science Team Meeting March 1998 Tucson, Arizona. .
[52] A.G. Gorelik, V. Sterljadkin, E. Kadygrov, and A. Koldaev. "Microwave and IR Radiometry for Estimation of Atmospheric Radiation
Balance and Sea Ice Formation" (http:/ / www. arm. gov/ publications/ proceedings/ conf11/ extended_abs/ gorelik_ag. pdf). Proceedings of
the Eleventh Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Science Team Meeting March 2001 Atlanta, Georgia. .
[53] doi:10.1175/1520-0469(1980)037<0545:EOIAFO>2.0.CO;2
This citation will be automatically completed in the next few minutes. You can jump the queue or expand by hand (http:/ / en. wikipedia. org/
wiki/ Template:cite_doi/ 10. 1175. 2f1520-0469. 281980. 29037. 3c0545%3aeoiafo. 3e2. 0. co. 3b2?preload=Template:Cite_doi/ preload&
editintro=Template:Cite_doi/ editintro& action=edit)
[54] http:/ / nomads. ncdc. noaa. gov/
[55] http:/ / dapper. pmel. noaa. gov/ dchart/ index. html?cid=AAAAHg@@
Global climate model 211

External links
• Climate Change Prediction: A challenging scientific problem (2005) (
Publications/file_4147.pdf). By Prof. A.J. Thorpe. Explains how predictions of future climate change are made
using climate models.
• Climate Simulations for 1951–2050 with a Coupled Atmosphere–Ocean Model (http://stephenschneider. by Sun and Hansen (2003)
• History of Global Climate Modelling (
• E-Media from GFDL's CCVP Group ( Includes
videos, animations, podcasts and transcripts on climate models.
• ( GFDL's Flexible Modeling System containing code for the climate models.
• Dapper/DChart ( - plot and download
model data referenced by the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
• Chapter 8: Climate Models and Their Evaluation (
ar4-wg1-chapter8.pdf). The IPCC Working Group I Fourth Assessment Report (2007).
• CCSP, 2008: Climate Models: An Assessment of Strengths and Limitations (
Library/sap/sap3-1/final-report/default.htm) A Report by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program and the
Subcommittee on Global Change Research [Bader D.C., C. Covey, W.J. Gutowski Jr., I.M. Held, K.E. Kunkel,
R.L. Miller, R.T. Tokmakian and M.H. Zhang (Authors)]. Department of Energy, Office of Biological and
Environmental Research, Washington, D.C., USA, 124 pp.
• BBC News: Models 'key to climate forecasts' ( Dr Vicky
Pope of the Hadley Centre explains how computer models are used to predict the day-to-day weather and changes
to the climate (2007).
• The scientific basis for projections of climate change (in a nutshell) (
component/content/article/3181). Video of a lecture given at Princeton University by Isaac Held, Professor of
Geosciences and Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, Princeton University and Geophysical Fluid Dynamics
Laboratory (GFDL). February 26, 2008.
• (IPCC 2001 section 8.3) ( — on model hierarchy
• (IPCC 2001 section 8) ( — much information on
coupled GCM's
• Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (
• On the Radiative and Dynamical Feedbacks over the Equatorial Pacific Cold Tongue (http://ams.allenpress.
• Basic Radiation Calculations ( — The Discovery of Global
• Henderson-Sellers, A.; Robinson, P. J. (1999). Contemporary Climatology (
Bookshop/detail.asp?item=100000000002249). New York: Longman. ISBN 0-582-27631-4.
History of climate change science 212

History of climate change science

The history of the scientific discovery of climate change began in the early 19th century when natural changes in
paleoclimate were first suspected and the natural greenhouse effect first identified. In the late 19th century, scientists
first argued that human emissions of greenhouse gases could change the climate, but the calculations were disputed.
In the 1950s and 1960s, scientists increasingly thought that human activity could change the climate on a timescale
of decades, but were unsure whether the net impact would be to warm or cool the climate. During the 1970s,
scientific opinion increasingly favored the warming viewpoint. In the 1980s the consensus position formed that
human activity was in the process of warming the climate, leading to the beginning of the modern period of global
warming science summarized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Paleoclimate change and the natural greenhouse effect, early and mid 1800s
Prior to the 18th century, scientists had not suspected that prehistoric
climates were different from the modern period. By the late 18th
century, geologists found evidence of a succession of geological ages
with changes in climate. There were various competing theories about
these changes, and James Hutton, whose ideas of cyclic change over
huge periods of time were later dubbed uniformitarianism, was among
those who found signs of past glacial activity in places too warm for
glaciers in modern times.[1]

Although he wasn't a scientist, in 1815 Jean-Pierre Perraudin described Erratics, boulders deposited by glaciers far from
for the first time how glaciers might be responsible for the giant any existing glaciers, led geologists to the
boulders seen in alpine valleys. As he hiked in the Val de Bagnes, he conclusion that climate had changed in the past.

noticed giant granite rocks that were scattered around the narrow
valley. He knew that it would take an exceptional force to move such large rocks. He also noticed how glaciers left
stripes on the land, and concluded that it was the ice that had carried the boulders down into the valleys.[2]

His idea was initially met with disbelief. Jean de Charpentier wrote, "I found his hypothesis so extraordinary and
even so extravagant that I considered it as not worth examining or even considering."[3] Despite Charpentier
rejecting his theory, Perraudin eventually convinced Ignaz Venetz that it might be worth studying. Venetz convinced
Charpentier, who in turn convinced the influential scientist Louis Agassiz that the glacial theory had merit.[2]
Agassiz developed a theory of what he termed "Ice Age" — when glaciers covered Europe and much of North
America. In 1837 Agassiz was the first to scientifically propose that the Earth had been subject to a past ice age.[4]
William Buckland had led attempts in Britain to adapt the geological theory of catastrophism to account for erratic
boulders and other "diluvium" as relics of the Biblical flood. This was strongly opposed by Charles Lyell's version of
Hutton's uniformitarianism, and was gradually abandoned by Buckland and other catastrophist geologists. A field
trip to the Alps with Agassiz in October 1838 convinced Buckland that features in Britain had been caused by
glaciation, and both he and Lyell strongly supported the ice age theory which became widely accepted by the
In the same general period that scientists first suspected climate change and ice ages, Joseph Fourier, in 1824, found
that Earth's atmosphere kept the planet warmer than would be the case in a vacuum, and he made the first
calculations of the warming effect. Fourier recognized that the atmosphere transmitted visible light waves efficiently
to the earth's surface. The earth then absorbed visible light and emitted infrared radiation in response, but the
atmosphere did not transmit infrared efficiently, which therefore increased surface temperatures. He also suspected
that human activities could influence climate, although he focused primarily on land use changes. In a 1827 paper
Fourier stated, "The establishment and progress of human societies, the action of natural forces, can notably change,
History of climate change science 213

and in vast regions, the state of the surface, the distribution of water and the great movements of the air. Such effects
are able to make to vary, in the course of many centuries, the average degree of heat; because the analytic
expressions contain coefficients relating to the state of the surface and which greatly influence the temperature."[5]
John Tyndall took Fourier's work one step further when he investigated the absorption of heat in different gases.[6]

First calculations of human-induced climate change, late 1800s

By the late 1890s, American scientist Samuel Pierpoint Langley had
attempted to determine the surface temperature of the moon by
measuring infrared radiation leaving the moon and reaching the
earth.[7] The angle of the moon in the sky when a scientist took a
measurement determined how much CO2 and water vapor the moon's
radiation had to pass through to reach the earth's surface, resulting in
weaker measurements when the moon was low in the sky. This result
was unsurprising given that scientists had known about the greenhouse
effect for decades.

Meanwhile, Swedish scientist Arvid Högbom had been attempting to

quantify natural sources of emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) for
purposes of understanding the global carbon cycle. Högbom decided to
compare the natural sources with estimated carbon production from
industrial sources in the 1890s.[8]
In 1896 Svante Arrhenius calculated the effect of
Another Swedish scientist, Svante Arrhenius, integrated Högbom and a doubling atmospheric carbon dioxide to be an
Langley's work. He realized that Högbom's calculation of human increase in surface temperatures of 5-6 degrees
influence on carbon would eventually lead to a doubling of
atmospheric carbon dioxide, and used Langley's observations of
increased infrared absorption where moon rays pass through atmosphere at a low angle, encountering more CO2, to
estimate an atmospheric warming effect from a future doubling of CO2. He also realized the effect would also reduce
snow and ice cover on earth, making the planet darker and warmer. Adding in this effect gave a total calculated
warming of 5-6 degrees Celsius. However, because of the relatively low rate of CO2 production in 1896, Arrhenius
thought the warming would take thousands of years and might even be beneficial to humanity.[8]

Controversy and disinterest, early 1900s to mid 1900s

Arrhenius' calculations were disputed and subsumed into a larger debate over whether atmospheric changes had
caused the ice ages. Experimental attempts to measure infrared absorption in the laboratory showed little differences
resulted from increasing CO2 levels, and also found significant overlap between absorption by CO2 and absorption
by water vapor, all of which suggested that increasing carbon dioxide emissions would have little climatic effect.
These early experiments were later found to be insufficiently accurate, given the instrumentation of the time. Many
scientists also thought that oceans would quickly absorb any excess carbon dioxide.[8]
While a few early 20th-Century scientists supported Arrhenius' work, including E. O. Hulburt and Guy Stewart
Callendar, most scientific opinion disputed or ignored it through the early 1950s.[8]
History of climate change science 214

Concern and increasing urgency, 1950s and 1960s

Better spectrography in the 1950s showed that CO2 and water vapor absorption lines did not overlap completely.
Climatologists also realized that little water vapor was present in the upper atmosphere. Both developments showed
that the CO2 greenhouse effect would not be overwhelmed by water vapor.[8]
Scientists began using computers to develop more sophisticated versions of Arrhenius' equations, and carbon-14
isotope analysis showed that CO2 released from fossil fuels were not immediately absorbed by the ocean. Better
understanding of ocean chemistry led to a realization that the ocean surface layer had limited ability to absorb carbon
dioxide. By the late 1950s, more scientists were arguing that carbon dioxide emissions could be a problem, with
some projecting in 1959 that CO2 would rise 25% by the year 2000, with potentially "radical" effects on climate.[8]
By the 1960s, aerosol pollution ("smog") had become a serious local problem in many cities, and some scientists
began to consider whether the cooling effect of particulate pollution could affect global temperatures. Scientists were
unsure whether the cooling effect of particulate pollution or warming effect of greenhouse gas emissions would
predominate, but regardless, began to suspect the net effect could be disruptive to climate in the matter of decades. In
his 1968 book The Population Bomb, Paul R. Ehrlich wrote "the greenhouse effect is being enhanced now by the
greatly increased level of carbon dioxide... [this] is being countered by low-level clouds generated by contrails, dust,
and other contaminants... At the moment we cannot predict what the overall climatic results will be of our using the
atmosphere as a garbage dump."[9]

Scientists increasingly predicting warming, 1970s

Scientists in the 1970s started to shift from the uncertain leanings in
the 1960s to increasingly a prediction of future warming. A survey of
the scientific literature from 1965 to 1979 found 7 articles predicting
cooling and 44 predicting warming, with the warming articles also
being cited much more often in subsequent scientific literature.[10]
Several scientific panels from this time period concluded that more
research was needed to determine whether warming or cooling was
Mean temperature anomalies during the period likely, indicating that the trend in the scientific literature had not yet
1965 to 1975 with respect to the average become a consensus.[11] [12] On the other hand, the 1979 World
temperatures from 1937 to 1946. This dataset was Climate Conference of the World Meteorological Organization
not available at the time.
concluded "it appears plausible that an increased amount of carbon
dioxide in the atmosphere can contribute to a gradual warming of the
lower atmosphere, especially at higher latitudes....It is possible that some effects on a regional and global scale may
be detectable before the end of this century and become significant before the middle of the next century."[13]

In July of 1979 the United States National Research Council published a report, [14] concluding (in part):
When it is assumed that the CO2 content of the atmosphere is doubled and statistical thermal equilibrium is
achieved, the more realistic of the modeling efforts predict a global surface warming of between 2°C and
3.5°C, with greater increases at high latitudes. …
… we have tried but have been unable to find any overlooked or underestimated physical effects that could
reduce the currently estimated global warmings due to a doubling of atmospheric CO2 to negligible
proportions or reverse them altogether. …
The mainstream news media at the time did not reflect scientific opinion. In 1975, Newsweek magazine published a
story that warned of "ominous signs that the Earth's weather patterns have begun to change," and reported "a drop of
half a degree [Fahrenheit] in average ground temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere between 1945 and 1968."[15]
The article continued by stating that evidence of global cooling was so strong that meteorologists were having "a
History of climate change science 215

hard time keeping up with it."[15] On October 23, 2006, Newsweek issued an update stating that it had been
"spectacularly wrong about the near-term future".[16]

Climate change scientific consensus begins development, 1980-1988

By the early 1980s, the slight cooling trend from 1945-1975 had
stopped. Aerosol pollution had decreased in many areas due to
environmental legislation and changes in fuel use, and it became clear
that the cooling effect from aerosols was not going to increase
substantially while carbon dioxide levels were progressively
In 1985 a joint UNEP/WMO/ICSU Conference on the "Assessment of
the Role of Carbon Dioxide and Other Greenhouse Gases in Climate
Variations and Associated Impacts" assessed the role of carbon dioxide
and aerosols in the atmosphere, and concluded that greenhouse gases
"are expected" to cause significant warming in the next century and James Hansen during his 1988 testimony to

that some warming is inevitable.[17] In June 1988, James E. Hansen Congress, which alerted the public to the dangers
of global warming.
made one of the first assessments that human-caused warming had
already measurably affected global climate.[18]

Modern period: 1988 to present


Assessment reports:

First (1990)

1992 sup.

Second (1995)

Third (2001)

Fourth (2007)

Fifth (2014)


Both the UNEP and WMO had followed up on the 1985 Conference with additional meetings. In 1988 the WMO
established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change with the support of the UNEP. The IPCC continues its
work through the present day, and issues a series of Assessment Reports and supplemental reports that describe the
state of scientific understanding at the time each report is prepared. Scientific developments during this period are
discussed in the articles for each Assessment Report.
History of climate change science 216

Discovery of other climate changing factors

Methane: In 1859, John Tyndall determined that coal gas, a mix of methane and other gases, strongly absorbed
infrared radiation. Methane was subsequently detected in the atmosphere in 1948, and in the 1980s scientists realized
that human emissions were having a substantial impact.[19]
Milankovitch cycles: Beginning in 1864, Scottish geologist James Croll proposed that changes in earth's orbit could
trigger cycles of ice ages by changing the total amount of winter sunlight in the high latitudes. His ideas were widely
discussed but not accepted. Serbian geophysicist Milutin Milanković developed these concepts in more detail in
1941 with the publication of Kanon der Erdbestrahlung und seine Anwendung auf das Eiszeitenproblem (Canon of
Insolation of the Earth and Its Application to the Problem of the Ice Ages). Milanković's ideas became the consensus
position in the 1970s, when ocean sediment dating matched the prediction of 100,000 year ice-age cycles.
Chlorofluorocarbon: In 1973, British scientist James Lovelock speculated that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) could
have a global warming effect. In 1975, V. Ramanathan found that a CFC molecule could be 10,000 times more
effective in absorbing infrared radiation than a carbon dioxide molecule, making CFCs potentially important despite
their very low concentrations in