Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Leading climate scientists reaffirm view that late 20th Century warming was unusual

08.07.2003


Warming resulted in part fromfrom human activity



A group of leading climate scientists has reaffirmed the "robust consensus view" emerging from the peer reviewed literature that the warmth experienced on at least a hemispheric scale in the late 20th century was an anomaly in the previous millennium and that human activity likely played an important role in causing it. In so doing, they refuted recent claims that the warmth of recent decades was not unprecedented in the context of the past thousand years.

Writing in the 8 July issue of the American Geophysical Union publication Eos, Michael Mann of the University of Virginia and 12 colleagues in the United States and United Kingdom endorse the position on climate change and greenhouse gases taken by AGU in 1998. Specifically, they say that "there is a compelling basis for concern over future climate changes, including increases in global-mean surface temperatures, due to increased concentrations of greenhouse gases, primarily from fossil-fuel burning."


The Eos article is a response to two recent and nearly identical papers by Drs. Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, published in Climate Research and Energy & Environment (the latter paper with additional co-authors). These authors challenge the generally accepted view that natural factors cannot fully explain recent warming and must have been supplemented by significant human activity, and their papers have received attention in the media and in the U.S. Senate. Requests from reporters to top scientists in the field, seeking comment on the Soon and Baliunas position, lead to memoranda that were later expanded into the current Eos article, which was itself peer reviewed.

Paleoclimatologists (scientists who study ancient climates) generally rely on instrumental data for the past 150 years and "proxy" indicators, such as tree rings, ice cores, corals, and lake sediments to reconstruct the climate of earlier times. Most of the available data pertain to the northern hemisphere and show, according to the authors, that the warmth of the northern hemisphere over the past few decades is likely unprecedented in the last 1,000 years and quite possibly in the preceding 1,000 years as well.

Climate model simulations cannot explain the anomalous late 20th century warmth without taking into account the contributions of human activities, the authors say. They make three major points regarding Soon and Baliunas’s recent assertions challenging these findings.

First, in using proxy records to draw inferences about past climate, it is essential to assess their actual sensitivity to temperature variability. In particular, the authors say, Soon and Baliunas misuse proxy data reflective of changes in moisture or drought, rather than temperature, in their analysis.

Second, it is essential to distinguish between regional temperature anomalies and hemispheric mean temperature, which must represent an average of estimates over a sufficiently large number of distinct regions. For example, Mann and his co- authors say, the concepts of a "Little Ice Age" and "Medieval Warm Period" arose from the Eurocentric origins of historic climatology. The specific periods of coldness and warmth differed from region to region and as compared with data for the northern hemisphere as a whole.

Third, according to Mann and his colleagues, it is essential to define carefully the modern base period with which past climate is to be compared and to identify and quantify uncertainties. For example, they say, the most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) carefully compares data for recent decades with reconstructions of past temperatures, taking into account the uncertainties in those reconstructions. IPCC concluded that late 20th century warmth in the northern hemisphere likely exceeded that of any time in the past millennium. The method used by Soon and Baliunas, they say, considers mean conditions for the entire 20th century as the base period and determines past temperatures from proxy evidence not capable of resolving trends on a decadal basis. It is therefore, they say, of limited value in determining whether recent warming in anomalous in a long term and large scale context.

The Eos article started as a memorandum that Michael Oppenheimer and Mann drafted to help inform colleagues who were being contacted by members of the media regarding the Soon and Baliunas papers and wanted an opinion from climate scientists and paleoclimatologists who were directly familiar with the underlying issues.

Mann and Oppenheimer learned that a number of other colleagues, including Tom Wigley of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) in Boulder, Colorado; Philip Jones of the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit in Norwich, United Kingdom; and Raymond Bradley of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst were receiving similar media requests for their opinions on the matter. Their original memorandum evolved into a more general position paper jointly authored by a larger group of leading scientists in the field.

Mann says he sees the resulting Eos article as representing an even broader consensus of the viewpoint of the mainstream climate research community on the question of late 20th century warming and its causes. The goal of the authors, he says, is to reaffirm support for the AGU position statement on climate change and greenhouse gases and clarify what is currently known from the paleoclimate record of the past one-to-two thousand years and, in particular, what the bearing of this evidence is on the issue of the detection of human influence on recent climate change.

Harvey Leifert | AGU
Further information:
http://www.agu.org/

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht New research calculates capacity of North American forests to sequester carbon
16.07.2018 | University of California - Santa Cruz

nachricht Scientists discover Earth's youngest banded iron formation in western China
12.07.2018 | University of Alberta

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Subaru Telescope helps pinpoint origin of ultra-high energy neutrino

16.07.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Barium ruthenate: A high-yield, easy-to-handle perovskite catalyst for the oxidation of sulfides

16.07.2018 | Life Sciences

New research calculates capacity of North American forests to sequester carbon

16.07.2018 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>