This is a list of papers on formal attribution which means papers attributing the climate change to specific causes. This list was compiled by Jesús Rosino and was originally published here. With his permission, I’m publishing the list here in English and in my usual format. As my contribution to this list is merely to edit it to my format (and I added the Pierce et al. 2006 paper), this basically is a guest post by Jesús Rosino. The list is not complete, and will most likely be updated in the future in order to make it more thorough and more representative.
UPDATE (February 25, 2016): Huber & Knutti (2012), Gillett et al. (2012), Wigley & Santer (2013), and Jones et al. (2013) added. Thanks to Keith Pickering for pointing them out. Also some dead links corrected.
UPDATE (August 7, 2010): Andronova & Schlesinger (2000), Barnett et al. (1999), and North & Stevens (1998) added; couple of full text links added; broken links corrected. Thanks to Barry for providing information on all of these, see the comment section below.
UPDATE (April 11, 2010): Schneider (1994) added.
Attribution of observed historical near‒surface temperature variations to anthropogenic and natural causes using CMIP5 simulations – Jones et al. (2013)
Abstract: We have carried out an investigation into the causes of changes in near‒surface temperatures from 1860 to 2010. We analyze the HadCRUT4 observational data set which has the most comprehensive set of adjustments available to date for systematic biases in sea surface temperatures and the CMIP5 ensemble of coupled models which represents the most sophisticated multi‒model climate modeling exercise yet carried out. Simulations that incorporate both anthropogenic and natural factors span changes in observed temperatures between 1860 and 2010, while simulations of natural factors do not warm as much as observed. As a result of sampling a much wider range of structural modeling uncertainty, we find a wider spread of historic temperature changes in CMIP5 than was simulated by the previous multi‒model ensemble, CMIP3. However, calculations of attributable temperature trends based on optimal detection support previous conclusions that human‒induced greenhouse gases dominate observed global warming since the mid‒20th century. With a much wider exploration of model uncertainty than previously carried out, we find that individually the models give a wide range of possible counteracting cooling from the direct and indirect effects of aerosols and other non‒greenhouse gas anthropogenic forcings. Analyzing the multi‒model mean over 1951–2010 (focusing on the most robust result), we estimate a range of possible contributions to the observed warming of approximately 0.6 K from greenhouse gases of between 0.6 and 1.2 K, balanced by a counteracting cooling from other anthropogenic forcings of between 0 and −0.5 K.
Citation: Jones, G. S., P. A. Stott, and N. Christidis (2013), Attribution of observed historical near‒surface temperature variations to anthropogenic and natural causes using CMIP5 simulations, J. Geophys. Res. Atmos., 118, 4001–4024, doi:10.1002/jgrd.50239. [Full text]
A probabilistic quantification of the anthropogenic component of twentieth century global warming – Wigley & Santer (2013)
Abstract: This paper examines in detail the statement in the 2007 IPCC Fourth Assessment Report that “Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-twentieth century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations”. We use a quantitative probabilistic analysis to evaluate this IPCC statement, and discuss the value of the statement in the policy context. For forcing by greenhouse gases (GHGs) only, we show that there is a greater than 90 % probability that the expected warming over 1950–2005 is larger than the total amount (not just “most”) of the observed warming. This is because, following current best estimates, negative aerosol forcing has substantially offset the GHG-induced warming. We also consider the expected warming from all anthropogenic forcings using the same probabilistic framework. This requires a re-assessment of the range of possible values for aerosol forcing. We provide evidence that the IPCC estimate for the upper bound of indirect aerosol forcing is almost certainly too high. Our results show that the expected warming due to all human influences since 1950 (including aerosol effects) is very similar to the observed warming. Including the effects of natural external forcing factors has a relatively small impact on our 1950–2005 results, but improves the correspondence between model and observations over 1900–2005. Over the longer period, however, externally forced changes are insufficient to explain the early twentieth century warming. We suggest that changes in the formation rate of North Atlantic Deep Water may have been a significant contributing factor.
Citation: T. M. L. Wigley, B. D. Santer (2013), Climate Dynamics, March 2013, Volume 40, Issue 5, pp 1087-1102, doi:10.1007/s00382-012-1585-8. [Full text]
Improved constraints on 21st-century warming derived using 160 years of temperature observations – Gillett et al. (2012)
Abstract: Projections of 21st century warming may be derived by using regression-based methods to scale a model’s projected warming up or down according to whether it under- or over-predicts the response to anthropogenic forcings over the historical period. Here we apply such a method using near surface air temperature observations over the 1851–2010 period, historical simulations of the response to changing greenhouse gases, aerosols and natural forcings, and simulations of future climate change under the Representative Concentration Pathways from the second generation Canadian Earth System Model (CanESM2). Consistent with previous studies, we detect the influence of greenhouse gases, aerosols and natural forcings in the observed temperature record. Our estimate of greenhouse-gas-attributable warming is lower than that derived using only 1900–1999 observations. Our analysis also leads to a relatively low and tightly-constrained estimate of Transient Climate Response of 1.3–1.8°C, and relatively low projections of 21st-century warming under the Representative Concentration Pathways. Repeating our attribution analysis with a second model (CNRM-CM5) gives consistent results, albeit with somewhat larger uncertainties.
Citation: Gillett, N. P., V. K. Arora, G. M. Flato, J. F. Scinocca, and K. vonSalzen (2012), Improved constraints on 21st-century warming derived using 160 years of temperature observations, Geophys. Res. Lett., 39, L01704, doi:10.1029/2011GL050226. [Full text]
Anthropogenic and natural warming inferred from changes in Earth’s energy balance – Huber & Knutti (2012)
Abstract: The Earth’s energy balance is key to understanding climate and climate variations that are caused by natural and anthropogenic changes in the atmospheric composition. Despite abundant observational evidence for changes in the energy balance over the past decades, the formal detection of climate warming and its attribution to human influence has so far relied mostly on the difference between spatio-temporal warming patterns of natural and anthropogenic origin. Here we present an alternative attribution method that relies on the principle of conservation of energy, without assumptions about spatial warming patterns. Based on a massive ensemble of simulations with an intermediate-complexity climate model we demonstrate that known changes in the global energy balance and in radiative forcing tightly constrain the magnitude of anthropogenic warming. We find that since the mid-twentieth century, greenhouse gases contributed 0.85 °C of warming (5–95% uncertainty: 0.6–1.1 °C), about half of which was offset by the cooling effects of aerosols, with a total observed change in global temperature of about 0.56 °C. The observed trends are extremely unlikely (<5%) to be caused by internal variability, even if current models were found to strongly underestimate it. Our method is complementary to optimal fingerprinting attribution and produces fully consistent results, thus suggesting an even higher confidence that human-induced causes dominate the observed warming.
Citation: Markus Huber & Reto Knutti (2012), Nature Geoscience 5, 31–36, doi:10.1038/ngeo1327. [Full text]
Anthropogenic forcing dominates sea level rise since 1850 – Jevrejeva et al. (2009)
Abstract: “Here we use a delayed response statistical model to attribute the past 1000 years of sea level variability to various natural (volcanic and solar radiative) and anthropogenic (greenhouse gases and aerosols) forcings. We show that until 1800 the main drivers of sea level change are volcanic and solar radiative forcings. For the past 200 years sea level rise is mostly associated with anthropogenic factors. Only 4 ± 1.5 cm (25% of total sea level rise) during the 20th century is attributed to natural forcings, the remaining 14 ± 1.5 cm are due to a rapid increase in CO2 and other greenhouse gases.” [Full text]
A Multimodel Update on the Detection and Attribution of Global Surface Warming – Stone et al.
Abstract: (2007) “This paper presents an update on the detection and attribution of global annual mean surface air temperature changes, using recently developed climate models. … Greenhouse gas and solar irradiance changes are found to have contributed to a best guess of ~0.8 and ~0.3 K warming over the 1901–2005 period, respectively, while sulfate aerosols have contributed a ~0.4 K cooling.” [Full text]
The Detection and Attribution of Climate Change Using an Ensemble of Opportunity – Stone et al. (2007)
Abstract: “This paper presents an extension to the fingerprinting technique that permits the inclusion of GCMs in the multisignal analysis of surface temperature even when the required families of ensembles have not been generated. … The result is that the temperature difference of the 1996–2005 decade relative to the 1940–49 decade can be attributed to greenhouse gas emissions, with a partially offsetting cooling from sulfate emissions and little contribution from natural sources.” [Full text]
Anthropogenic Warming of the Oceans: Observations and Model Results – Pierce et al. (2006)
Abstract: “Comparing the observations with results from two coupled ocean–atmosphere climate models [the Parallel Climate Model version 1 (PCM) and the Hadley Centre Coupled Climate Model version 3 (HadCM3)] that include anthropogenic forcing shows remarkable agreement between the observed and model-estimated warming. … In the top 100 m of the water column the warming is well separated from natural variability, including both variability arising from internal instabilities of the coupled ocean–atmosphere climate system and that arising from volcanism and solar fluctuations. … The observed sampling of ocean temperature is highly variable in space and time, but sufficient to detect the anthropogenic warming signal in all basins, at least in the surface layers, by the 1980s.” [Full text]
Detecting and Attributing External Influences on the Climate System: A Review of Recent Advances – The International Ad Hoc Detection and Attribution Group (2005)
A review paper. Abstract: “This paper reviews recent research that assesses evidence for the detection of anthropogenic and natural external influences on the climate. … These observed climate changes are very unlikely to be due only to natural internal climate variability, and they are consistent with the responses to anthropogenic and natural external forcing of the climate system that are simulated with climate models. The evidence indicates that natural drivers such as solar variability and volcanic activity are at most partially responsible for the large-scale temperature changes observed over the past century, and that a large fraction of the warming over the last 50 yr can be attributed to greenhouse gas increases. Thus, the recent research supports and strengthens the IPCC Third Assessment Report conclusion that “most of the global warming over the past 50 years is likely due to the increase in greenhouse gases.”” [Full text]
Combinations of Natural and Anthropogenic Forcings in Twentieth-Century Climate – Meehl et al. (2004)
Abstract: “Ensemble simulations are run with a global coupled climate model employing five forcing agents that influence the time evolution of globally averaged surface air temperature during the twentieth century. … The late-twentieth-century warming can only be reproduced in the model with anthropogenic forcing (mainly GHGs), while the early twentieth-century warming is mainly caused by natural forcing in the model (mainly solar).” [Full text]
Causes of atmospheric temperature change 1960–2000: A combined attribution analysis – Jones et al. (2003)
Abstract: “We investigate the causes of temperature change over the last four decades, both near the surface and in the free atmosphere, using a coupled atmosphere/ocean general circulation model, HadCM3, which requires no flux correction. … Our results strengthen the case for an anthropogenic influence on climate. Unlike previous studies we attribute observed decadal-mean temperature changes both to anthropogenic emissions, and changes in stratospheric volcanic aerosols. The temperature response to change in solar irradiance is also detected but with a lower confidence than the other forcings.” [Full text]
Modern Global Climate Change – Karl & Trenberth (2003)
Abstract: “Modern climate change is dominated by human influences, which are now large enough to exceed the bounds of natural variability. The main source of global climate change is human-induced changes in atmospheric composition. These perturbations primarily result from emissions associated with energy use, but on local and regional scales, urbanization and land use changes are also important.” [Full text]
Estimation of natural and anthropogenic contributions to twentieth century temperature change – Tett et al. (2002)
Abstract: “Using a coupled atmosphere/ocean general circulation model, we have simulated the climatic response to natural and anthropogenic forcings from 1860 to 1997. … Using an “optimal detection” methodology to examine temperature changes near the surface and throughout the free atmosphere, we find that we can detect the effects of changes in well-mixed greenhouse gases, other anthropogenic forcings (mainly the effects of sulphate aerosols on cloud albedo), and natural forcings. Thus these have all had a significant impact on temperature. We estimate the linear trend in global mean near-surface temperature from well-mixed greenhouse gases to be 0.9 ± 0.24 K/century, offset by cooling from other anthropogenic forcings of 0.4 ± 0.26 K/century, giving a total anthropogenic warming trend of 0.5 ± 0.15 K/century. … In the second half of the century we find that the warming is largely caused by changes in greenhouse gases, with changes in sulphates and, perhaps, volcanic aerosol offsetting approximately one third of the warming. Warming in the troposphere, since the 1960s, is probably mainly due to anthropogenic forcings, with a negligible contribution from natural forcings.” [FULL TEXT]
Detection of Anthropogenic Climate Change in the World’s Oceans – Barnett et al. (2001)
Abstract: “Large-scale increases in the heat content of the world’s oceans have been observed to occur over the last 45 years. The horizontal and temporal character of these changes has been closely replicated by the state-of-the-art Parallel Climate Model (PCM) forced by observed and estimated anthropogenic gases. … This suggests that the observed ocean heat-content changes are consistent with those expected from anthropogenic forcing, which broadens the basis for claims that an anthropogenic signal has been detected in the global climate system.”
Attribution of twentieth century temperature change to natural and anthropogenic causes – Stott et al. (2001)
Abstract: “We analyse possible causes of twentieth century near-surface temperature change. We use an “optimal detection” methodology to compare seasonal and annual data from the coupled atmosphere-ocean general circulation model HadCM2 with observations averaged over a range of spatial and temporal scales. The results indicate that the increases in temperature observed in the latter half of the century have been caused by warming from anthropogenic increases in greenhouse gases offset by cooling from tropospheric sulfate aerosols rather than natural variability, either internal or externally forced. We also find that greenhouse gases are likely to have contributed significantly to the warming in the first half of the century.”
Causes of global temperature changes during the 19th and 20th centuries – Andronova & Schlesinger (2000)
Abstract: “During the past two decades there has been considerable discussion about the relative contribution of different factors to the temperature changes observed now over the past 142 years. Among these factors are the “external’ factors of human (anthropogenic) activity, volcanoes and putative variations in the irradiance of the sun, and the “internal” factor of natural variability. Here, by using a simple climate/ocean model to simulate the observed temperature changes for different state‐of‐the‐art radiative‐forcing models, we present strong evidence that while the anthropogenic effect has steadily increased in size during the entire 20th century such that it presently is the dominant external forcing of the climate system, there is a residual factor at work within the climate system, whether a natural oscillation or something else as yet unknown. This has an important implication for our expectation of future temperature changes.”
Causes of Climate Change Over the Past 1000 Years – Crowley (2000)
Abstract: “Recent reconstructions of Northern Hemisphere temperatures and climate forcing over the past 1000 years allow the warming of the 20th century to be placed within a historical context and various mechanisms of climate change to be tested. … The combination of a unique level of temperature increase in the late 20th century and improved constraints on the role of natural variability provides further evidence that the greenhouse effect has already established itself above the level of natural variability in the climate system. A 21st-century global warming projection far exceeds the natural variability of the past 1000 years and is greater than the best estimate of global temperature change for the last interglacial.” [Full text]
Anthropogenic and natural causes of twentieth century temperature change – Stott et al. (2000)
Abstract: “We analyse spatio-temporal patterns of near-surface temperature change to provide an attribution of twentieth century climate change. We apply an “optimal detection” methodology to seasonal and annual data averaged over a range of spatial and temporal scales. We find that solar effects may have contributed significantly to the warming in the first half of the century although this result is dependent on the reconstruction of total solar irradiance that is used. In the latter half of the century, we find that anthropogenic increases in greenhouses gases are largely responsible for the observed warming, balanced by some cooling due to anthropogenic sulphate aerosols, with no evidence for significant solar effects.”
External Control of 20th Century Temperature by Natural and Anthropogenic Forcings – Stott et al. (2000)
Abstract: “A comparison of observations with simulations of a coupled ocean-atmosphere general circulation model shows that both natural and anthropogenic factors have contributed significantly to 20th century temperature changes. … Natural forcings were relatively more important in the early-century warming and anthropogenic forcings have played a dominant role in warming observed in recent decades. … Anthropogenic global warming under a standard emissions scenario is predicted to continue at a rate similar to that observed in recent decades.” [Full text] [Perspective]
Detection and Attribution of Recent Climate Change: A Status Report – Barnett et al. (1999)
Abstract: “This paper addresses the question of where we now stand with respect to detection and attribution of an anthropogenic climate signal. Our ability to estimate natural climate variability, against which claims of anthropogenic signal detection must be made, is reviewed. The current situation suggests control runs of global climate models may give the best estimates of natural variability on a global basis, estimates that appear to be accurate to within a factor of 2 or 3 at multidecadal timescales used in detection work. … Most, but not all, results suggest that recent changes in global climate inferred from surface air temperature are likely not due solely to natural causes. At present it is not possible to make a very confident statement about the relative contributions of specific natural and anthropogenic forcings to observed climate change. One of the main reasons is that fully realistic simulations of climate change due to the combined effects of all anthropogenic and natural forcings mechanisms have yet to be computed.” [Full text]
Causes of twentieth-century temperature change near the Earth’s surface – Tett et al. (1999)
Abstract: “Here we present a quantification of the possible contributions throughout the century from the four components most likely to be responsible for the large-scale temperature changes, of which two vary naturally (solar irradiance and stratospheric volcanic aerosols) and two have changed decisively due to anthropogenic influence (greenhouse gases and sulphate aerosols). The patterns of time/space changes in near-surface temperature due to the separate forcing components are simulated with a coupled atmosphere–ocean general circulation model, and a linear combination of these is fitted to observations. … For the warming from 1946 to 1996 regardless of any possible amplification of solar or volcanic influence, we exclude purely natural forcing, and attribute it largely to the anthropogenic components.”
Detecting Climate Signals in the Surface Temperature Record – North & Stevens (1998)
Abstract: “Optimal signal detection theory has been applied in a search through 100 yr of surface temperature data for the climate response to four specific radiative forcings. The data used comes from 36 boxes on the earth and was restricted to the frequency band 0.06–0.13 cycles yr−1 (16.67–7.69 yr) in the analysis. Estimates were sought of the strengths of the climate response to solar variability, volcanic aerosols, greenhouse gases, and anthropogenic aerosols. … Results are reasonably consistent across these four separate model formulations. It was found that the component of the volcanic response perpendicular to the other signals was very robust and highly significant. Similarly, the component of the greenhouse gas response perpendicular to the others was very robust and highly significant. When the sum of all four climate forcings was used, the climate response was more than three standard deviations above the noise level. These findings are considered to be powerful evidence of anthropogenically induced climate change.” [Full text]
A search for human influences on the thermal structure of the atmosphere – Santer et al. (1996)
Abstract: “The observed spatial patterns of temperature change in the free atmosphere from 1963 to 1987 are similar to those predicted by state-of-the-art climate models incorporating various combinations of changes in carbon dioxide, anthropogenic sulphate aerosol and stratospheric ozone concentrations. The degree of pattern similarity between models and observations increases through this period. It is likely that this trend is partially due to human activities, although many uncertainties remain, particularly relating to estimates of natural variability.” [Full text]
Detecting Climatic Change Signals: Are There Any “Fingerprints”? – Schneider (1994)
Abstract: “Until climate models are driven by time-evolving, combined, multiple, and heterogeneous forcing factors, the best global climatic change “fingerprint” will probably remain a many-decades average of hemi-spheric- to global-scale trends in surface air temperatures. Century-long global warming (or cooling) trends of 0.5°C appear to have occurred infrequently over the past several thousand years—perhaps only once or twice a millennium, as proxy records suggest. This implies an 80 to 90 percent heuristic likelihood that the 20th-century 0.5 ± 0.2°C warming trend is not a wholly natural climatic fluctuation.”
Attribution of regional-scale climate change
Detection and attribution of climate change: a regional perspective – Stott et al. (2010)
Abstract: “This paper reviews this evidence from a regional perspective to reflect a growing interest in understanding the regional effects of climate change, which can differ markedly across the globe. We set out the methodological basis for detection and attribution and discuss the spatial scales on which it is possible to make robust attribution statements. We review the evidence showing significant human-induced changes in regional temperatures, and for the effects of external forcings on changes in the hydrological cycle, the cryosphere, circulation changes, oceanic changes, and changes in extremes.” [Full text]
Attribution of polar warming to human influence – Gillett et al. (2008)
Abstract: “Here we use an up-to-date gridded data set of land surface temperatures and simulations from four coupled climate models to assess the causes of the observed polar temperature changes. We find that the observed changes in Arctic and Antarctic temperatures are not consistent with internal climate variability or natural climate drivers alone, and are directly attributable to human influence. Our results demonstrate that human activities have already caused significant warming in both polar regions, with likely impacts on polar biology, indigenous communities, ice-sheet mass balance and global sea level.” [Full text]
Detection of a Human Influence on North American Climate – Karoly et al. (2003)
Abstract: “Several indices of large-scale patterns of surface temperature variation were used to investigate climate change in North America over the 20th century. The observed variability of these indices was simulated well by a number of climate models. Comparison of index trends in observations and model simulations shows that North American temperature changes from 1950 to 1999 were unlikely to be due to natural climate variation alone. Observed trends over this period are consistent with simulations that include anthropogenic forcing from increasing atmospheric greenhouse gases and sulfate aerosols. However, most of the observed warming from 1900 to 1949 was likely due to natural climate variation.” [Full text]
Attribution of regional-scale temperature changes to anthropogenic and natural causes – Stott (2003)
Abstract: “The causes of twentieth century temperature change in six separate land areas of the Earth have been determined by carrying out a series of optimal detection analyses. The warming effects of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations have been detected in all the regions examined, including North America and Europe. In most regions, cooling from sulfate aerosols counteracts some of the greenhouse warming, and there is some evidence for reduced net aerosol cooling in Asia, possibly as a result of warming from black carbon.” [Full text]