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Keywords:

  • transient climate simulations;
  • natural and anthropogenic climate forcings;
  • emission scenarios

Abstract

Numerical experiments have been carried out with a two-dimensional sector-averaged global climate model coupled to a diffusive ocean in order to assess the potential impact of four hypothesized mechanisms of decadal to century-scale climate variability, both natural and anthropogenically induced: (1) solar variability; (2) variability in volcanic aerosol loading of the atmosphere; (3) anthropogenic increase of sulphate aerosols' concentration; (4) anthropogenic increase of greenhouse gas concentrations.

Our results suggest that neither the individual responses nor the combined natural or anthropogenic forcings allow one to reproduce all of the recorded major temperature fluctuations since the latter half of the 19th century. They show that these temperature variations are the result of both naturally driven climate fluctuations and the effects of industrialization.

By contrast, the dominant cause of decade-to-century-scale variability of the 21st century is likely to be changes in atmospheric trace-gas concentrations. Indeed, when the solar, volcanic, and tropospheric aerosols forcings used in our experiments are extended into the future, they are unable to counter the expected greenhouse warming. Copyright © 2002 Royal Meteorological Society.