AGW Observer

Observations of anthropogenic global warming

New research from last week 45/2011

Posted by Ari Jokimäki on November 14, 2011

Here is the new research published last week. I’m not including everything that was published but just some papers that got my attention. Those who follow my Facebook page (and/or Twitter) have already seen most of these, as I post these there as soon as they are published. Here, I’ll just put them out in one batch. Sometimes I might also point out to some other news as well, but the new research will be the focus here. Here’s the archive for the news of previous weeks. By the way, if this sort of thing interests you, be sure to check out A Few Things Illconsidered, they have a weekly posting containing lots of links to new research and other climate related news.

New analysis of global carbon dioxide fluxes

Recent global CO2 flux inferred from atmospheric CO2 observations and its regional analyses – Deng & Chen (2011) “The net surface exchange of CO2 for the years 2002–2007 is inferred from 12 181 atmospheric CO2 concentration data with a time-dependent Bayesian synthesis inversion scheme. Monthly CO2 fluxes are optimized for 30 regions of the North America and 20 regions for the rest of the globe. Although there have been many previous multiyear inversion studies, the reliability of atmospheric inversion techniques has not yet been systematically evaluated for quantifying regional interannual variability in the carbon cycle. In this study, the global interannual variability of the CO2 flux is found to be dominated by terrestrial ecosystems, particularly by tropical land, and the variations of regional terrestrial carbon fluxes are closely related to climate variations. These interannual variations are mostly caused by abnormal meteorological conditions in a few months in the year or part of a growing season and cannot be well represented using annual means, suggesting that we should pay attention to finer temporal climate variations in ecosystem modeling. We find that, excluding fossil fuel and biomass burning emissions, terrestrial ecosystems and oceans absorb an average of 3.63 ± 0.49 and 1.94 ± 0.41 Pg C yr−1, respectively. The terrestrial uptake is mainly in northern land while the tropical and southern lands contribute 0.62 ± 0.47, and 0.67 ± 0.34 Pg C yr−1 to the sink, respectively. In North America, terrestrial ecosystems absorb 0.89 ± 0.18 Pg C yr−1 on average with a strong flux density found in the south-east of the continent.” Deng, F. and Chen, J. M., Biogeosciences, 8, 3263-3281, doi:10.5194/bg-8-3263-2011, 2011. [Full text]

Climate change is expected to increase waterborne pathogen concentrations in surface waters globally

Quantifying the impact of climate change on enteric waterborne pathogen concentrations in surface water – Hofstra (2011) “Climate change, among other factors, will impact waterborne pathogen concentrations in surface water worldwide, possibly increasing the risk of diseases caused by these pathogens. So far, the impacts are only determined qualitatively and thorough quantitative estimates of future pathogen concentrations have not yet been made. This review shows how changes in temperature and precipitation influence pathogen concentrations and gives opportunities to quantitatively explore the impact of climate change on pathogen concentrations using examples from ecological and hydrological modelling, already available statistical and process-based pathogen models and climate change scenarios. Such applications could indicate potential increased waterborne pathogen concentrations and guide further research.” Nynke Hofstra, Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, doi:10.1016/j.cosust.2011.10.006.

Ocean acidification also affects coral symbiotic algae which might enhance decrease in calcification

Effects of acidified seawater on coral calcification and symbiotic algae on the massive coral Porites australiensis – Iguchi et al. (2011) “We investigated the effect of acidified seawater on calcification and symbiotic algae (zooxanthellae density, chlorophyll content per single algal cell, fluorescence yield (Fv/Fm)) on a massive coral, Porites australiensis, a common species in the Ryukyu Archipelago of Japan. We found that acidified seawater significantly decreased the calcification and fluorescence yield, but did not affect zooxanthellae density and chlorophyll content per single algal cell. This indicates low levels of photoacclimation to acidified seawater in this species, and this is contrary to the findings of previous studies of Acropora species. A significant correlation between calcification and fluorescence yield was observed, indicating the presence of a strong relationship between calcification and algal photosynthesis. Our results indicate that endosymbiont photosynthetic dysfunction may enhance the decrease of coral calcification in future acidified ocean conditions. Calcification and fluorescence yield among colonies clearly differed, showing that the response to acidified seawater is highly variable among colonies in natural coral populations.” Akira Iguchi, Saori Ozaki, Takashi Nakamura, Mayuri Inoue, Yasuaki Tanaka, Atsushi Suzuki, Hodaka Kawahata, Kazuhiko Sakai, Marine Environmental Research, doi:10.1016/j.marenvres.2011.10.008.

Tropical insects living in thermally heterogenous environment tolerate more warming

Climate heterogeneity modulates impact of warming on tropical insects – Bonebrake & Deutsch (2011) “Evolutionary history and physiology mediate species responses to climate change. Tropical species that do not naturally experience high temperature variability have a narrow thermal tolerance compared to similar taxa at temperate latitudes, and could therefore be most vulnerable to warming. However, the thermal adaptation of a species may also be influenced by spatial temperature variations over its geographical range. Spatial climate gradients, especially from topography, may also broaden thermal tolerance and therefore act to buffer warming impacts. Here we show that for low seasonality environments, high spatial heterogeneity in temperature correlates significantly with greater warming tolerance in insects globally. Based on this relationship, we find that climate change projections of direct physiological impacts on insect fitness highlight the vulnerability of tropical lowland areas to future warming. Thus, in addition to seasonality, spatial heterogeneity may play a critical role in thermal adaptation and climate change impacts particularly in the tropics.” Bonebrake, Timothy Carlton, and Curtis A. Deutsch, Ecology, doi:10.1890/11-1187.1.

Global temperature doesn’t correlate significantly with sunspot number or geomagnetic activity

Are secular correlations between sunspots, geomagnetic activity, and global temperature significant? – Love et al. (2011) “Recent studies have led to speculation that solar-terrestrial interaction, measured by sunspot number and geomagnetic activity, has played an important role in global temperature change over the past century or so. We treat this possibility as an hypothesis for testing. We examine the statistical significance of cross-correlations between sunspot number, geomagnetic activity, and global surface temperature for the years 1868–2008, solar cycles 11–23. The data contain substantial autocorrelation and nonstationarity, properties that are incompatible with standard measures of cross-correlational significance, but which can be largely removed by averaging over solar cycles and first-difference detrending. Treated data show an expected statistically-significant correlation between sunspot number and geomagnetic activity, Pearson p < 10−4, but correlations between global temperature and sunspot number (geomagnetic activity) are not significant, p = 0.9954, (p = 0.8171). In other words, straightforward analysis does not support widely-cited suggestions that these data record a prominent role for solar-terrestrial interaction in global climate change. With respect to the sunspot-number, geomagnetic-activity, and global-temperature data, three alternative hypotheses remain difficult to reject: (1) the role of solar-terrestrial interaction in recent climate change is contained wholly in long-term trends and not in any shorter-term secular variation, or, (2) an anthropogenic signal is hiding correlation between solar-terrestrial variables and global temperature, or, (3) the null hypothesis, recent climate change has not been influenced by solar-terrestrial interaction.” Love, J. J., K. Mursula, V. C. Tsai, and D. M. Perkins (2011), Geophys. Res. Lett., 38, L21703, doi:10.1029/2011GL049380. [Full text]

Updated dataset shows that global warming is due to greenhouse gases

Sensitivity of the attribution of near surface temperature warming to the choice of observational dataset – Jones & Stott (2011) “A number of studies have demonstrated that much of the recent warming in global near surface temperatures can be attributed to increases in anthropogenic greenhouse gases. While this conclusion has been shown to be robust in analyses using a variety of climate models there have not been equivalent studies using different available observational datasets. Here we repeat the analyses as reported previously using an updated observational dataset and other independently processed datasets of near surface temperatures. We conclude that the choice of observational dataset has little impact on the attribution of greenhouse gas warming and other anthropogenic cooling contributions to observed warming on a global scale over the 20th century, however this robust conclusion may not hold for other periods or for smaller sub-regions. Our results show that the dominant contributor to global warming over the last 50 years of the 20th century is that due to greenhouse gases.” Jones, G. S. and P. A. Stott (2011), Geophys. Res. Lett., 38, L21702, doi:10.1029/2011GL049324.

Several warmer than today periods in Greenland thousands of years ago but global warming is catching up

High variability of Greenland surface temperature over the past 4000 years estimated from trapped air in an ice core – Kobashi et al. (2011) “Greenland recently incurred record high temperatures and ice loss by melting, adding to concerns that anthropogenic warming is impacting the Greenland ice sheet and in turn accelerating global sea-level rise. Yet, it remains imprecisely known for Greenland how much warming is caused by increasing atmospheric greenhouse gases versus natural variability. To address this need, we reconstruct Greenland surface snow temperature variability over the past 4000 years at the GISP2 site (near the Summit of the Greenland ice sheet; hereafter referred to as Greenland temperature) with a new method that utilises argon and nitrogen isotopic ratios from occluded air bubbles. The estimated average Greenland snow temperature over the past 4000 years was −30.7°C with a standard deviation of 1.0°C and exhibited a long-term decrease of roughly 1.5°C, which is consistent with earlier studies. The current decadal average surface temperature (2001–2010) at the GISP2 site is −29.9°C. The record indicates that warmer temperatures were the norm in the earlier part of the past 4000 years, including century-long intervals nearly 1°C warmer than the present decade (2001–2010). Therefore, we conclude that the current decadal mean temperature in Greenland has not exceeded the envelope of natural variability over the past 4000 years, a period that seems to include part of the Holocene Thermal Maximum. Notwithstanding this conclusion, climate models project that if anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions continue, the Greenland temperature would exceed the natural variability of the past 4000 years sometime before the year 2100.” Kobashi, T., K. Kawamura, J. P. Severinghaus, J.-M. Barnola, T. Nakaegawa, B. M. Vinther, S. J. Johnsen, and J. E. Box (2011), Geophys. Res. Lett., 38, L21501, doi:10.1029/2011GL049444.

Vertical climate forcing & feedback analysis highlights important role of water cycle

The vertical distribution of climate forcings and feedbacks from the surface to top of atmosphere – Previdi & Liepert (2011) “The radiative forcings and feedbacks that determine Earth’s climate sensitivity are typically defined at the top-of-atmosphere (TOA) or tropopause, yet climate sensitivity itself refers to a change in temperature at the surface. In this paper, we describe how TOA radiative perturbations translate into surface temperature changes. It is shown using first principles that radiation changes at the TOA can be equated with the change in energy stored by the oceans and land surface. This ocean and land heat uptake in turn involves an adjustment of the surface radiative and non-radiative energy fluxes, with the latter being comprised of the turbulent exchange of latent and sensible heat between the surface and atmosphere. We employ the radiative kernel technique to decompose TOA radiative feedbacks in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report climate models into components associated with changes in radiative heating of the atmosphere and of the surface. (We consider the equilibrium response of atmosphere-mixed layer ocean models subjected to an instantaneous doubling of atmospheric CO2). It is shown that most feedbacks, i.e., the temperature, water vapor and cloud feedbacks, (as well as CO2 forcing) affect primarily the turbulent energy exchange at the surface rather than the radiative energy exchange. Specifically, the temperature feedback increases the surface turbulent (radiative) energy loss by 2.87 W m−2 K−1 (0.60 W m−2 K−1) in the multimodel mean; the water vapor feedback decreases the surface turbulent energy loss by 1.07 W m−2 K−1 and increases the surface radiative heating by 0.89 W m−2 K−1; and the cloud feedback decreases both the turbulent energy loss and the radiative heating at the surface by 0.43 and 0.24 W m−2 K−1, respectively. Since changes to the surface turbulent energy exchange are dominated in the global mean sense by changes in surface evaporation, these results serve to highlight the fundamental importance of the global water cycle to Earth’s climate sensitivity.” Michael Previdi and Beate G. Liepert, Climate Dynamics, DOI: 10.1007/s00382-011-1233-8.

Researchers link sea level rise to Earth’s core and suggest consequences for global warming

Geomagnetic South Atlantic Anomaly and global sea level rise: a direct connection? – De Santis et al. (2011) “We highlight the existence of an intriguing and to date unreported relationship between the surface area of the South Atlantic Anomaly (SAA) of the geomagnetic field and the current trend in global sea level rise. These two geophysical variables have been growing coherently during the last three centuries, thus strongly suggesting a causal relationship supported by some statistical tests. The monotonic increase of the SAA surface area since 1600 may have been associated with an increased inflow of radiation energy through the inner Van Allen belt with a consequent warming of the Earth’s atmosphere and finally global sea level rise. An alternative suggestive and original explanation is also offered, in which pressure changes at the core-mantle boundary cause surface deformations and relative sea level variations. Although we cannot establish a clear connection between SAA dynamics and global warming, the strong correlation between the former and global sea level supports the idea that global warming may be at least partly controlled by deep Earth processes triggering geomagnetic phenomena, such as the South Atlantic Anomaly, on a century time scale.” A. De Santis, E. Qamili, G. Spada, P. Gasperini, Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics, doi:10.1016/j.jastp.2011.10.015.

Warming rivers in northwest U.S. are causing stress for salmonid fishes

Climate change effects on stream and river temperatures across the northwest U.S. from 1980–2009 and implications for salmonid fishes – Isaak et al. (2011) “Thermal regimes in rivers and streams are fundamentally important to aquatic ecosystems and are expected to change in response to climate forcing as the Earth’s temperature warms. Description and attribution of stream temperature changes are key to understanding how these ecosystems may be affected by climate change, but difficult given the rarity of long-term monitoring data. We assembled 18 temperature time-series from sites on regulated and unregulated streams in the northwest U.S. to describe historical trends from 1980–2009 and assess thermal consistency between these stream categories. Statistically significant temperature trends were detected across seven sites on unregulated streams during all seasons of the year, with a cooling trend apparent during the spring and warming trends during the summer, fall, and winter. The amount of warming more than compensated for spring cooling to cause a net temperature increase, and rates of warming were highest during the summer (raw trend = 0.17°C/decade; reconstructed trend = 0.22°C/decade). Air temperature was the dominant factor explaining long-term stream temperature trends (82–94% of trends) and inter-annual variability (48–86% of variability), except during the summer when discharge accounted for approximately half (52%) of the inter-annual variation in stream temperatures. Seasonal temperature trends at eleven sites on regulated streams were qualitatively similar to those at unregulated sites if two sites managed to reduce summer and fall temperatures were excluded from the analysis. However, these trends were never statistically significant due to greater variation among sites that resulted from local water management policies and effects of upstream reservoirs. Despite serious deficiencies in the stream temperature monitoring record, our results suggest many streams in the northwest U.S. are exhibiting a regionally coherent response to climate forcing. More extensive monitoring efforts are needed as are techniques for short-term sensitivity analysis and reconstructing historical temperature trends so that spatial and temporal patterns of warming can be better understood. Continuation of warming trends this century will increasingly stress important regional salmon and trout resources and hamper efforts to recover these species, so comprehensive vulnerability assessments are needed to provide strategic frameworks for prioritizing conservation efforts.” D. J. Isaak, S. Wollrab, D. Horan and G. Chandler, Climatic Change, DOI: 10.1007/s10584-011-0326-z. [Full text]

Recent drought in Australia might be worst since the first European settlement

On the long-term context of the 1997–2009 ‘Big Dry’ in South-Eastern Australia: insights from a 206-year multi-proxy rainfall reconstruction – Gergis et al. (2011) “This study presents the first multi-proxy reconstruction of rainfall variability from the mid-latitude region of south-eastern Australia (SEA). A skilful rainfall reconstruction for the 1783–1988 period was possible using twelve annually-resolved palaeoclimate records from the Australasian region. An innovative Monte Carlo calibration and verification technique is introduced to provide the robust uncertainty estimates needed for reliable climate reconstructions. Our ensemble median reconstruction captures 33% of inter-annual and 72% of decadal variations in instrumental SEA rainfall observations. We investigate the stability of regional SEA rainfall with large-scale circulation associated with El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Inter-decadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO) over the past 206 years. We find evidence for a robust relationship with high SEA rainfall, ENSO and the IPO over the 1840–1988 period. These relationships break down in the late 18th–early 19th century, coinciding with a known period of equatorial Pacific Sea Surface Temperature (SST) cooling during one of the most severe periods of the Little Ice Age. In comparison to a markedly wetter late 18th/early 19th century containing 75% of sustained wet years, 70% of all reconstructed sustained dry years in SEA occur during the 20th century. In the context of the rainfall estimates introduced here, there is a 97.1% probability that the decadal rainfall anomaly recorded during the 1998–2008 ‘Big Dry’ is the worst experienced since the first European settlement of Australia.” Joëlle Gergis, Ailie Jane Eyre Gallant, Karl Braganza, David John Karoly, Kathryn Allen, Louise Cullen, Rosanne D’Arrigo, Ian Goodwin, Pauline Grierson and Shayne McGregor, Climatic Change, DOI: 10.1007/s10584-011-0263-x.

Granger causality analysis attributes recent global warming to greenhouse gases

Atmospheric Science Letters

A contribution to attribution of recent global warming by out-of-sample Granger causality analysis - Attanasio et al. (2011) “The topic of attribution of recent global warming is usually faced by studies performed through global climate models (GCMs). Even simpler econometric models have been applied to this problem, but they led to contrasting results. In this article, we show that a genuine predictive approach of Granger analysis leads to overcome problems shown by these models and to obtain a clear signal of linear Granger causality from greenhouse gases (GHGs) to the global temperature of the second half of the 20th century. In contrast, Granger causality is not evident using time series of natural forcing.” Alessandro Attanasio, Antonello Pasini, Umberto Triacca, Atmospheric Science Letters, DOI: 10.1002/asl.365.

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