Category Archives: Climate Change
Role of Cloud Formation Underestimated
20140101 Deborah Smith of UNSW Science Sydney —
Global average temperatures will rise at least 4°C by 2100 and potentially more than 8°C by 2200 if carbon dioxide emissions are not reduced, according to new research published in Nature that shows our climate is more sensitive to carbon dioxide than most previous estimates.
The research could solve one of the great unknowns of climate sensitivity, the role of cloud formation and whether this will have a positive or negative effect on global warming.
“Our research has shown climate models indicating a low temperature response to a doubling of carbon dioxide from preindustrial times are not reproducing the correct processes that lead to cloud formation," said lead author from UNSW’s Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, Professor Steven Sherwood.
“When the processes are correct in the climate models the level of climate sensitivity is far higher. Previously estimates of the sensitivity of global temperature to a doubling of carbon dioxide ranged from 1.5°C to 5°C. This new research takes away the lower end of climate sensitivity estimates, meaning that global average temperatures will increase by 3°C to 5°C with a doubling of carbon dioxide.”
The key to this narrower but much higher estimate can be found in the observations around the role of water vapour in cloud formation.
Observations show when water vapour is taken up by the atmosphere through evaporation the updraughts often rise up to 15 km to form heavy rains, but can also rise just a few km before returning to the surface without forming such rains.
In addition, where updraughts rise this smaller distance they reduce total cloud cover because they pull more vapour away from the higher cloud forming regions than when only the deep ones are present.
Climate models that show a low global temperature response to carbon dioxide do not include enough of this lower-level process. They instead simulate nearly all updraughts rising to 15 km.
These deeper updraughts alone do not have the same effect, resulting in increased reflection of sunlight and reduced sensitivity of the global climate to atmospheric carbon dioxide.
However, real world observations show this behaviour is wrong.
When the processes are correct in the climate model, this produces cycles that take water vapour to a wider range of heights in the atmosphere, causing fewer clouds to form in a warmer climate. This increases the amount of sunlight and heat entering the atmosphere and increases the sensitivity of our climate to carbon dioxide or any other perturbation.
When water vapour processes are correctly represented, the sensitivity of the climate to a doubling of carbon dioxide – which will occur in the next 50 years – means we can expect a temperature increase of at least 3°C and more likely 4°C by 2100.
“Climate sceptics like to criticise climate models for getting things wrong, and we are the first to admit they are not perfect, but what we are finding is that the mistakes are being made by those models which predict less warming, not those that predict more,” said Professor Sherwood.
“Rises in global average temperatures of this magnitude will have profound impacts on the world and the economies of many countries if we don’t urgently start to curb our emissions."
Go to Source.
December 23, 2013 From the University of Edinburgh…
• Climate change has not been strongly influenced by variations in heat from the sun.
A new scientific study shows climate change has not been strongly influenced by variations in heat output from the sun.
The findings overturn a widely held scientific view that lengthy periods of warm and cold weather in the past might have been caused by periodic fluctuations in solar activity.
Research examining the causes of climate change in the northern hemisphere over the past 1000 years has shown that until the year 1800, the key driver of periodic changes in climate was volcanic eruptions.
These tend to prevent sunlight reaching the Earth, causing cool, drier weather. Since 1900, greenhouse gases have been the primary cause of climate change.
The findings show that periods of low sun activity should not be expected to have a large impact on temperatures on Earth, and are expected to improve scientists’ understanding and help climate forecasting.
Scientists at the University of Edinburgh carried out the study using records of past temperatures constructed with data from tree rings and other historical sources.
They compared this data record with computer-based models of past climate, featuring both significant and minor changes in the sun.
They found that their model of weak changes in the sun gave the best correlation with temperature records, indicating that solar activity has had a minimal impact on temperature in the past millennium.
The study, published in Nature GeoScience, was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council.
“Until now, the influence of the sun on past climate has been poorly understood. We hope that our new discoveries will help improve our understanding of how temperatures have changed over the past few centuries, and improve predictions for how they might develop in future. Links between the sun and anomalously cold winters in the UK are still being explored.”
Dr Andrew Schurer
School of GeoSciences
Get the Source here.