Climate Dynamics

, Volume 22, Issue 8, pp 823-838

First online:

Simple indices of global climate variability and change Part II: attribution of climate change during the twentieth century

  • K. BraganzaAffiliated withSchool of Mathematics Sciences, Monash University Email author 
  • , D. J. KarolyAffiliated withSchool of Mathematics Sciences, Monash UniversitySchool of Meteorology, University of Oklahoma
  • , A. C. HirstAffiliated withCSIRO Atmospheric Research
  • , P. StottAffiliated withHadley Center for Climate Prediction and Research, Meteorological Office
  • , R. J. StoufferAffiliated withGeophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory
  • , S. F. B. TettAffiliated withHadley Center for Climate Prediction and Research, Meteorological Office

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Five simple indices of surface temperature are used to investigate the influence of anthropogenic and natural (solar irradiance and volcanic aerosol) forcing on observed climate change during the twentieth century. These indices are based on spatial fingerprints of climate change and include the global-mean surface temperature, the land-ocean temperature contrast, the magnitude of the annual cycle in surface temperature over land, the Northern Hemisphere meridional temperature gradient and the hemispheric temperature contrast. The indices contain information independent of variations in global-mean temperature for unforced climate variations and hence, considered collectively, they are more useful in an attribution study than global mean surface temperature alone. Observed linear trends over 1950–1999 in all the indices except the hemispheric temperature contrast are significantly larger than simulated changes due to internal variability or natural (solar and volcanic aerosol) forcings and are consistent with simulated changes due to anthropogenic (greenhouse gas and sulfate aerosol) forcing. The combined, relative influence of these different forcings on observed trends during the twentieth century is investigated using linear regression of the observed and simulated responses of the indices. It is found that anthropogenic forcing accounts for almost all of the observed changes in surface temperature during 1946–1995. We found that early twentieth century changes (1896–1945) in global mean temperature can be explained by a combination of anthropogenic and natural forcing, as well as internal climate variability. Estimates of ‘scaling factors’ that weight the amplitude of model simulated signals to corresponding observed changes using a combined normalized index are similar to those calculated using more complex, optimal fingerprint techniques.