This is a list of papers on early 20th century warming. List contains both observational and theoretical studies. The list is not complete, and will most likely be updated in future in order to make it more thorough and more representative.
UPDATE (April 8, 2014): Suo et al. (2013), Kelly et al. (1980), Petterssen (1949), Ahlmann (1948) added.
External forcing of the early 20th century Arctic warming – Suo et al. (2013) “The observed Arctic warming during the early 20th century was comparable to present-day warming in terms of magnitude. The causes and mechanisms for the early 20th century Arctic warming are less clear and need to be better understood when considering projections of future climate change in the Arctic. The simulations using the Bergen Climate Model (BCM) can reproduce the surface air temperature (SAT) fluctuations in the Arctic during the 20th century reasonably well. The results presented here, based on the model simulations and observations, indicate that intensified solar radiation and a lull in volcanic activity during the 1920s–1950s can explain much of the early 20th century Arctic warming. The anthropogenic forcing could play a role in getting the timing of the peak warming correct. According to the model the local solar irradiation changes play a crucial role in driving the Arctic early 20th century warming. The SAT co-varied closely with local solar irradiation changes when natural external forcings are included in the model either alone or in combination with anthropogenic external forcings. The increased Barents Sea warm inflow and the anomalous atmosphere circulation patterns in the northern Europe and north Atlantic can also contribute to the warming. In summary, the early 20th century warming was largely externally forced.” Lingling Suo, Odd Helge Otterå, Mats Bentsen, Yongqi Gao, Ola M. Johannessen, Tellus A 2013, 65, 20578, http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/tellusa.v65i0.20578. [Full text]
Early 20th century warming in the Arctic: A review – Yamanouchi (2011) “From the 1920s to the 1940s, the Artic experienced significant warming that is comparable to the recent 30-year warming. The former warming was concentrated mostly in high latitudes, in contrast to the recent 30-year warming, which has occurred in all latitudes. Several explanations have been proposed; however, one of these proposed explanations, single external forcing, which could once explain the global average, failed to explain the early 20th century scenario. A second possible explanation was internal atmospheric variability with low frequency. Another candidate for the explanation was still forcing by black carbon deposited on snow and ice surfaces. The answer is most likely to be a combination of intrinsic internal natural climate variability and positive feedbacks that amplified the radiative and atmospheric forcing. We must continue our study by discovering historical data, analyzing ice cores, reanalyzing the Arctic system together with long-term reanalysis dating back to the 1880s, and also determine the contributions of each factor.” Takashi Yamanouchi, Polar Science, Volume 5, Issue 1, April 2011, Pages 53–71, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.polar.2010.10.002.
Early 20th century Arctic warming in retrospect – Wood & Overland (2010) “The major early 20th century climatic fluctuation (∼1920–1940) has been the subject of scientific enquiry from the time it was detected in the 1920s. The papers of scientists who studied the event first-hand have faded into obscurity but their insights are relevant today. We review this event through a rediscovery of early research and new assessments of the instrumental record. Much of the inter-annual to decadal scale variability in surface air temperature (SAT) anomaly patterns and related ecosystem effects in the Arctic and elsewhere can be attributed to the superposition of leading modes of variability in the atmospheric circulation. Meridional circulation patterns were an important factor in the high latitudes of the North Atlantic during the early climatic fluctuation. Sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies that appeared during this period were congruent with low-frequency variability in the climate system but were themselves most likely the result of anomalous forcing by the atmosphere. The high-resolution data necessary to verify this hypothesis are lacking, but the consistency of multiple lines of evidence provides strong support. Our findings indicate that early climatic fluctuation is best interpreted as a large but random climate excursion imposed on top of the steadily rising global mean temperature associated with anthropogenic forcing.” Kevin R. Wood, James E. Overland, International Journal of Climatology, Volume 30, Issue 9, pages 1269–1279, July 2010, DOI: 10.1002/joc.1973.
Influence of volcanic activity and changes in solar irradiance on surface air temperatures in the early twentieth century – Shiogama et al. (2006) “Causes of the global surface air temperature warming in the early half of the 20th century are examined using a climate model and an optimal detection/attribution methodology. While the anthropogenic response seems to be underestimated in our model, our previous study detected the influence due to natural external forcing, including the combined effects of solar irradiance changes and the recovery from large volcanic activity. We further partition the responses between these two natural external factors, detecting both the solar and the volcanic signal in the observed early warming. A diagnosis of the sensitivity to solar forcing and a volcanic super-eruption simulation suggest that our model possesses larger climate sensitivities to solar forcing and longer relaxation times to volcanic forcing than HadCM3, enabling us to detect both the solar and volcanic forcing responses.” Hideo Shiogama, Tatsuya Nagashima, Tokuta Yokohata, Simon A. Crooks, Toru Nozawa, Geophysical Research Letters, Volume 33, Issue 9, May 2006, DOI: 10.1029/2005GL025622.
Detecting natural influence on surface air temperature change in the early twentieth century – Nozawa et al. (2005) “We analyze surface air temperature datasets simulated by a coupled climate model forced with different external forcings, to diagnose the relative importance of these forcings to the observed warming in the early 20th century. The geographical distribution of linear temperature trends in the simulations forced only by natural contributions (volcanic eruptions and solar variability) shows better agreement with observed trends than that does the simulations forced only by well-mixed greenhouse gases. Using an optimal fingerprinting technique we robustly detect a significant natural contribution to the early 20th century warming. In addition, the amplitude of our simulated natural signal is consistent with the observations. Over the same period, however, we could not detect a greenhouse gas signal in the observed surface temperature in the presence of the external natural forcings. Hence our analysis suggests that external natural factors caused more warming in the early 20th century than anthropogenic factors.” Toru Nozawa, Tatsuya Nagashima, Hideo Shiogama, Simon A. Crooks, Geophysical Research Letters, Volume 32, Issue 20, October 2005, DOI: 10.1029/2005GL023540. [Full text]
The Early Twentieth-Century Warming in the Arctic—A Possible Mechanism – Bengtsson et al. (2004) “The huge warming of the Arctic that started in the early 1920s and lasted for almost two decades is one of the most spectacular climate events of the twentieth century. During the peak period 1930–40, the annually averaged temperature anomaly for the area 60°–90°N amounted to some 1.7°C. Whether this event is an example of an internal climate mode or is externally forced, such as by enhanced solar effects, is presently under debate. This study suggests that natural variability is a likely cause, with reduced sea ice cover being crucial for the warming. A robust sea ice–air temperature relationship was demonstrated by a set of four simulations with the atmospheric ECHAM model forced with observed SST and sea ice concentrations. An analysis of the spatial characteristics of the observed early twentieth-century surface air temperature anomaly revealed that it was associated with similar sea ice variations. Further investigation of the variability of Arctic surface temperature and sea ice cover was performed by analyzing data from a coupled ocean–atmosphere model. By analyzing climate anomalies in the model that are similar to those that occurred in the early twentieth century, it was found that the simulated temperature increase in the Arctic was related to enhanced wind-driven oceanic inflow into the Barents Sea with an associated sea ice retreat. The magnitude of the inflow is linked to the strength of westerlies into the Barents Sea. This study proposes a mechanism sustaining the enhanced westerly winds by a cyclonic atmospheric circulation in the Barents Sea region created by a strong surface heat flux over the ice-free areas. Observational data suggest a similar series of events during the early twentieth-century Arctic warming, including increasing westerly winds between Spitsbergen and Norway, reduced sea ice, and enhanced cyclonic circulation over the Barents Sea. At the same time, the North Atlantic Oscillation was weakening.” Bengtsson, Lennart, Vladimir A. Semenov, Ola M. Johannessen, 2004: The Early Twentieth-Century Warming in the Arctic—A Possible Mechanism. J. Climate, 17, 4045–4057. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/1520-0442(2004)0172.0.CO;2. [Full text]
Solar and Greenhouse Gas Forcing and Climate Response in the Twentieth Century – Meehl et al. (2003) “Ensemble experiments with a global coupled climate model are performed for the twentieth century with time-evolving solar, greenhouse gas, sulfate aerosol (direct effect), and ozone (tropospheric and stratospheric) forcing. Observed global warming in the twentieth century occurred in two periods, one in the early twentieth century from about the early 1900s to the 1940s, and one later in the century from, roughly, the late 1960s to the end of the century. The model’s response requires the combination of solar and anthropogenic forcing to approximate the early twentieth-century warming, while the radiative forcing from increasing greenhouse gases is dominant for the response in the late twentieth century, confirming previous studies. Of particular interest here is the model’s amplification of solar forcing when this acts in combination with anthropogenic forcing. This difference is traced to the fact that solar forcing is more spatially heterogeneous (i.e., acting most strongly in areas where sunlight reaches the surface) while greenhouse gas forcing is more spatially uniform. Consequently, solar forcing is subject to coupled regional feedbacks involving the combination of temperature gradients, circulation regimes, and clouds. The magnitude of these feedbacks depends on the climate’s base state. Over relatively cloud-free oceanic regions in the subtropics, the enhanced solar forcing produces greater evaporation. More moisture then converges into the precipitation convergence zones, intensifying the regional monsoon and Hadley and Walker circulations, causing cloud reductions over the subtropical ocean regions, and, hence, more solar input. An additional response to solar forcing in northern summer is an enhancement of the meridional temperature gradients due to greater solar forcing over land regions that contribute to stronger West African and South Asian monsoons. Since the greenhouse gases are more spatially uniform, such regional circulation feedbacks are not as strong. These regional responses are most evident when the solar forcing occurs in concert with increased greenhouse gas forcing. The net effect of enhanced solar forcing in the early twentieth century is to produce larger solar-induced increases of tropical precipitation when calculated as a residual than for early century solar-only forcing, even though the size of the imposed solar forcing is the same. As a consequence, overall precipitation increases in the early twentieth century in the Asian monsoon regions are greater than late century increases, qualitatively consistent with observed trends in all-India rainfall. Similar effects occur in West Africa, the tropical Pacific, and the Southern Ocean tropical convergence zones.” Meehl, Gerald A., Warren M. Washington, T. M. L. Wigley, Julie M. Arblaster, Aiguo Dai, 2003: Solar and Greenhouse Gas Forcing and Climate Response in the Twentieth Century. J. Climate, 16, 426–444. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/1520-0442(2003)0162.0.CO;2. [Full text]
Estimation of natural and anthropogenic contributions to twentieth century temperature change – Tett et al. (2002) “Using a coupled atmosphere/ocean general circulation model, we have simulated the climatic response to natural and anthropogenic forcings from 1860 to 1997. The model, HadCM3, requires no flux adjustment and has an interactive sulphur cycle, a simple parameterization of the effect of aerosols on cloud albedo (first indirect effect), and a radiation scheme that allows explicit representation of well-mixed greenhouse gases. Simulations were carried out in which the model was forced with changes in natural forcings (solar irradiance and stratospheric aerosol due to explosive volcanic eruptions), well-mixed greenhouse gases alone, tropospheric anthropogenic forcings (tropospheric ozone, well-mixed greenhouse gases, and the direct and first indirect effects of sulphate aerosol), and anthropogenic forcings (tropospheric anthropogenic forcings and stratospheric ozone decline). 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. Over the entire century, natural forcings give a linear trend close to zero. We found no evidence that simulated changes in near-surface temperature due to anthropogenic forcings were in error. However, the simulated tropospheric response, since the 1960s, is ∼50% too large. Our analysis suggests that the early twentieth century warming can best be explained by a combination of warming due to increases in greenhouse gases and natural forcing, some cooling due to other anthropogenic forcings, and a substantial, but not implausible, contribution from internal variability. 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.” Simon F. B. Tett, Gareth S. Jones, Peter A. Stott, David C. Hill, John F. B. Mitchell, Myles R. Allen, William J. Ingram, Tim C. Johns, Colin E. Johnson, Andy Jones, David L. Roberts, David M. H. Sexton, Margaret J. Woodage, Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres (1984–2012), Volume 107, Issue D16, pages ACL 10-1–ACL 10-24, 27 August 2002, DOI: 10.1029/2000JD000028. [Full text]
Simulation of Early 20th Century Global Warming – Delworth & Knutson (2000) “The observed global warming of the past century occurred primarily in two distinct 20-year periods, from 1925 to 1944 and from 1978 to the present. Although the latter warming is often attributed to a human-induced increase of greenhouse gases, causes of the earlier warming are less clear because this period precedes the time of strongest increases in human-induced greenhouse gas (radiative) forcing. Results from a set of six integrations of a coupled ocean-atmosphere climate model suggest that the warming of the early 20th century could have resulted from a combination of human-induced radiative forcing and an unusually large realization of internal multidecadal variability of the coupled ocean-atmosphere system. This conclusion is dependent on the model’s climate sensitivity, internal variability, and the specification of the time-varying human-induced radiative forcing.” Thomas L. Delworth, Thomas R. Knutson, Science 24 March 2000: Vol. 287 no. 5461 pp. 2246-2250, DOI: 10.1126/science.287.5461.2246.
Changes in atmospheric circulation over northern hemisphere oceans associated with the rapid warming of the 1920s – Fu et al. (1999) ”
Global mean surface temperature has increased since the late 19th century. The warming occurred largely during two periods: 1920–1940, and since the mid-1970s. Although most recent studies have focused on the latter period, it is of interest to analyse the earlier period and compare its major features to the recent warming episode. The warming during 1920–1940 occurred most rapidly during the 1920s. It was strongest at high northern latitudes in winter, a pattern now believed to be characteristic of ‘greenhouse warming’. This warming of the Arctic was much discussed during the 1930s and 1940s, but the data available at that time were mostly derived from land areas. In this paper, we use the COADS marine data set and recent compilations of land surface temperature data sets to examine the behaviour of the surface fields over the ocean during this event. Considering the thermal and atmospheric fields at the surface, the strongest signal occurs in the North Atlantic Ocean during winter, being distinct but more gradual in the other oceans and seasons. The Northern Hemisphere continental record shows that both middle and high latitudes experienced rapid warming in the early 20th century warming interval (the 1920s and 1930s, hereafter referred to as ETCW). Temperature data for northern tropics, while displaying similar general characteristics, exhibit some differences with regard to timing and rates of change. There is a suggestion of weakening of the westerlies and the trade wind system in the 1930s, following an intensification of the westerlies across the North Atlantic during the previous two decades. This weakening may be related to a lessening of atmospheric baroclinicity in association with the fact that the amplitude of warming at high latitudes was much greater than that in low latitudes, reducing the mean meridional thermal gradient, and therefore the geostrophic pressure gradient. There is some indication that the North Atlantic and North Pacific high-pressure systems shifted northward. Coincident with this northward shift of the subtropical highs, typhoons in the Northwest Pacific and hurricanes in the North Atlantic became more numerous in this period of rising temperature, which we suggest is linked to a northward shift of the respective near-equatorial convergence zones. Concomitant to the weakening of the westerlies and trade wind systems, the Asian monsoon troughs deepened substantially, a situation generally favourable to the development of active monsoons. It is thought that the combination of these two features—enhanced continental monsoons and implied lowered vertical wind shear over the oceans—would tend to enhance the release of latent heat in the tropics, representing strengthened Hadley and Walker circulations, which may have been at least partly responsible for greater aridity in subtropical land areas of both hemispheres during this period. The latter is also consistent with an expansion and/or strengthening of the subtropical high-pressure belt into the continents.” Congbin Fu, Henry F. Diaz, Dongfeng Dong, Joseph O. Fletcher, International Journal of Climatology, Volume 19, Issue 6, pages 581–606, May 1999, DOI: 10.1002/(SICI)1097-0088(199905)19:63.0.CO;2-P.
Solar Forcing of Global Climate Change Since The Mid-17th Century – Reid et al. (1997) “Spacecraft measurements of the sun’s total irradiance since 1980 have revealed a long-term variation that is roughly in phase with the 11-year solar cycle. Its origin is uncertain, but may be related to the overall level of solar magnetic activity as well as to the concurrent activity on the visible disk. A low-pass Gaussian filtered time series of the annual sunspot number has been developed as a suitable proxy for solar magnetic activity that contains a long-term component related to the average level of activity as well as a short-term component related to the current phase of the 11-year cycle. This time series is also assumed to be a proxy for solar total irradiance, and the irradiance is reconstructed for the period since 1617 based on the estimate from climatic evidence that global temperatures during the Maunder Minimum of solar activity, which coincided with one of the coldest periods of the Little Ice Age, were about 1 °C colder than modern temperatures. This irradiance variation is used as the variable radiative forcing function in a one-dimensional ocean–climate model, leading to a reconstruction of global temperatures over the same period, and to a suggestion that solar forcing and anthropogenic greenhouse-gas forcing made roughly equal contributions to the rise in global temperature that took place between 1900 and 1955. The importance of solar variability as a factor in climate change over the last few decades may have been underestimated in recent studies.” George C. Reid, Climatic Change, October 1997, Volume 37, Issue 2, pp 391-405, DOI: 10.1023/A:1005307009726.
Changes in Global Surface Temperature From 1880 to 1977 Derived From Historical Records of Sea Surface Temperature – Paltridge & Woodruff (1981) “A preliminary analysis based primarily on historical records of sea surface temperature (SST) gives estimates of the change since 1880 of global, hemispheric and zonal average surface temperatures. The global change with time is roughly similar in shape and magnitude to that derived by Mitchell from land station data alone, but lags the Mitchell curve by 10-20 years. That is, the present data show a minimumof temperature somewhere between 1900 and 1925 and a maximum somewhere between 1945 and 1970. Comparing the means of these 25-year periods, the rise from minimum to maximum was (roughly) 0.6 K for the Northern Hemisphere and 0.9 K for the Southern Hemisphere. Comparing the means of the 50 years before 1930 and the 48 years from 1930 to 1977, the rise was 0.3 K for the Northern Hemisphere and 0.6 K for the Southern Hemisphere. The figures do not take into account the polar regions which, on linear extrapolation from lower latitudes, may have risen in temperature by twice the hemispheric averages. The temperature of the tropical zone (l0°N-10°S) has not changed over the years, so that the meridionaltemperature gradient has decreased in both hemispheres. The detail of the various conclusions may be revised later in the light of further analysis of the errors associated with the SST data sets. This furtheranalysis is underway at the Environmental Research Laboratories of NOAA.” Paltridge, G., S. Woodruff, 1981: Changes in Global Surface Temperature From 1880 to 1977 Derived From Historical Records of Sea Surface Temperature. Mon. Wea. Rev., 109, 2427–2434. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/1520-0493(1981)1092.0.CO;2. [Full text]
Variations in Surface Air Temperatures: Part 2. Arctic Regions, 1881–1980 – Kelly et al. (1980) “We describe annual and seasonal changes in air temperatures over high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere during the period 1881–1980. Trends (that is, fluctuations on time scales greater than 20 years) in the average temperature of the Arctic are compared with those of the Northern Hemisphere. Seasonal and regional departures from the long-term trends in the average temperature of the Arctic are identified. Spatial patterns of variation in the Arctic temperature field are determined by principal component analysis and the major characteristics of the time series of the dominant patterns are summarized. Trends in Arctic temperatures have been broadly similar to those for the Northern Hemisphere during the study period. The Arctic variations were, however, greater in magnitude and more rapid. The spatial pattern of change associated with the trend in Arctic temperatures is clearly identified by principal component analysis. It shows that the trends have, in general, been Arctic-wide, but that certain regions are particularly sensitive to long-term variations, most notably northwest Greenland and around the Kara Sea. There is some evidence that the pattern of Arctic cooling that occurred after 1940 was more complex than the warming that affected the whole Arctic during the 1920’s and 1930’s. Warming of the Arctic has occurred during the 1970’s, but is not yet of sufficient duration to be considered long term, except, perhaps, in spring. The average temperature of the Arctic during the 1970’s was equal to that of the 1960’s, indicating a cessation of the long-term cooling trend but not, as yet, a shift to long-term warming. Short-term variations in temperature appear to be most pronounced close to major regions of sea-ice production and decay.” Kelly, P. M., P. D. Jones, C. B. Sear, B. S. G. Cherry, R. K. Tavakol, 1982: Variations in Surface Air Temperatures: Part 2. Arctic Regions, 1881–1980. Mon. Wea. Rev., 110, 71–83. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/1520-0493(1982)1102.0.CO;2. [Full text]
Temperature fluctuations and trends over the earth – Callendar (1961) “The annual temperature deviations at over 400 meteorological stations are combined on a regional basis to give the integrated fluctuations over large areas and zones. These are shown in graphical form, and it is concluded that a solar or atmospheric dust hypothesis is necessary to explain the world-wide fluctuations of a few years duration. An important change in the relationships of the zonal fluctuations has occurred since 1920. The overall temperature trends found from the data are considered in relation to the homogeneity of recording, and also to the evidence of glacial recession in different zones. It is concluded that the rising trend, shown by the instruments during recent decades, is significant from the Arctic to about 45°S lat., but quite small in most regions below 35°N. and not yet apparent in some. It is thought that the regional and zonal distribution of recent climatic trends is incompatible with the hypothesis of increased solar heating as the cause. On the other hand, the major features of this distribution are not incompatible with the hypothesis of increased carbon dioxide radiation, if the rate of atmospheric mixing between the hemispheres is a matter of decades rather than years.” G. S. Callendar, Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, Volume 87, Issue 371, pages 1–12, January 1961, DOI: 10.1002/qj.49708737102.
Changes in the General Circulation Associated with the Recent Climatic Variation – Petterssen (1949) No abstract. S. Petterssen, Geografiska Annaler, Vol. 31, Glaciers and Climate: Geophysical and Geomorphological Essays (1949), pp. 212-221.
The Present Climatic Fluctuation – Ahlmann (1948) No abstract. Hans W:Son Ahlmann, The Geographical Journal, Vol. 112, No. 4/6 (Oct. – Dec., 1948), pp. 165-193.
The artificial production of carbon dioxide and its influence on temperature – Callendar (1938) “By fuel combustion man has added about 150,000 million tons of carbon dioxide to the air during the past half century. The author estimates from the best available data that approximately three quarters of this has remained in the atmosphere. The radiation absorption coefficients of carbon dioxide and water vapour are used to show the effect of carbon dioxide on “sky radiation.” From this the increase in mean temperature, due to the artificial production of carbon dioxide, is estimated to be at the rate of 0.003°C. per year at the present time. The temperature observations at 200 meteorological stations are used to show that world temperatures have actually increased at an average rate of 0.005°C. per year during the past half century.” G. S. Callendar, Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, Volume 64, Issue 275, pages 223–240, April 1938, DOI: 10.1002/qj.49706427503. [Full text]