Assessing “global warming” with surface heat content



Although climate change and variability involves all aspects of the climate system [Pielke, 1998],the assessment of anthropogenically-forced climate change has focused on surface temperature as the primary metric [Mann and Jones, 2003; Soon et al., 2004]. Our contribution only addresses this very specific (and limited) metric of the climate system. The term “global warming” has been used to describe the observed surface air temperature increase in the 20th century. However, this concept of “global warming” requires assessments of units of heat (that is, Joules). Temperature, by itself, is an incomplete characterization of surface air heat content.