Global climate changes as forecast by Goddard Institute for Space Studies three-dimensional model


  • J. Hansen,

  • I. Fung,

  • A. Lacis,

  • D. Rind,

  • S. Lebedeff,

  • R. Ruedy,

  • G. Russell,

  • P. Stone


We use a three-dimensional climate model, the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) model II with 8° by 10° horizontal resolution, to simulate the global climate effects of time-dependent variations of atmospheric trace gases and aerosols. Horizontal heat transport by the ocean is fixed at values estimated for today's climate, and the uptake of heat perturbations by the ocean beneath the mixed layer is approximated as vertical diffusion. We make a 100-year control run and perform experiments for three scenarios of atmospheric composition. These experiments begin in 1958 and include measured or estimated changes in atmospheric CO2, CH4, N2O, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and stratospheric aerosols for the period from 1958 to the present. Scenario A assumes continued exponential trace gas growth, scenario B assumes a reduced linear growth of trace gases, and scenario C assumes a rapid curtailment of trace gas emissions such that the net climate forcing ceases to increase after the year 2000. Principal results from the experiments are as follows: (1) Global warming to the level attained at the peak of the current interglacial and the previous interglacial occurs in all three scenarios; however, there are dramatic differences in the levels of future warming, depending on trace gas growth. (2) The greenhouse warming should be clearly identifiable in the 1990s; the global warming within the next several years is predicted to reach and maintain a level at least three standard deviations above the climatology of the 1950s. (3) Regions where an unambiguous warming appears earliest are low-latitude oceans, China and interior areas in Asia, and ocean areas near Antarctica and the north pole; aspects of the spatial and temporal distribution of predicted warming are clearly model-dependent, implying the possibility of model discrimination by the 1990s and thus improved predictions, if appropriate observations are acquired. (4) The temperature changes are sufficiently large to have major impacts on people and other parts of the biosphere, as shown by computed changes in the frequency of extreme events and by comparison with previous climate trends. (5) The model results suggest some near-term regional climate variations, despite the fixed ocean heat transport which suppresses many possible regional climate fluctuations; for example, during Hie late 1980s and in the 1990s there is a tendency for greater than average warming in the southeastern and central United States and relatively cooler conditions or less than average warming in the western United States and much of Europe. Principal uncertainties in the predictions involve the equilibrium sensitivity of the model to climate forcing, the assumptions regarding heat uptake and transport by the ocean, and the omission of other less-certain climate forcings.