Climate Dynamics

, Volume 21, Issue 7–8, pp 573–591 | Cite as

Probable causes of late twentieth century tropospheric temperature trends

  • P. W. ThorneEmail author
  • P. D. Jones
  • S. F. B. Tett
  • M. R. Allen
  • D. E. Parker
  • P. A. Stott
  • G. S. Jones
  • T. J. Osborn
  • T. D. Davies


We assess the most probable causes of late twentieth century (1960–1994) tropospheric temperature changes. Optimal detection techniques are used to compare observed spatio-temporal patterns of near-surface and tropospheric temperature change with results from experiments performed with two different versions of the Hadley Centre climate model. We detect anthropogenic forcings, particularly well-mixed greenhouse-gases, with a less certain sulfate aerosol cooling influence. More limited evidence exists for a detectable volcanic influence. Our principal results do not depend upon the choice of model. Both models, but particularly HadCM3, appear to overestimate the simulated climate response to greenhouse gases (especially at the surface) and volcanoes. This result may arise, at least in part, due to errors in the forcings (especially sulfate) and technical details of our approach, which differs from previous studies. We use corrected and uncorrected versions of the radiosonde record to assess sensitivity of our detection results to observational uncertainties. We find that previous corrections applied to the radiosonde temperature record are likely to have been sub-optimal in only taking into account temporal consistency. However, the choice of corrected or uncorrected version has no systematic effect upon our main conclusions. We show that both models are potentially internally consistent explanations of observed tropospheric temperatures.


Ordinary Little Square Sulfate Aerosol Tropospheric Temperature Total Little Square Input Field 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This work was carried out while PWT was in receipt of NERC studentship GT04/98/76/AS. PDJ acknowledges support of the Office of Science (BER), U.S. Dept. of Energy, Grant No. DE-FG02-98ER62601. The Met Office authors are supported by the U.K. Department of the Environment, Food and the Rural Affairs under contract PECD7/12/37 and the Government Meteteorological Research program under Contract MSG-2/00. Through their contribution, the paper is Crown Copyright. HadRT, HadCM2 and HadCM3 data provided by the Hadley Centre. HadCM2 and HadCM3 data are available through the Climate Impacts LINK Project. HadCRUT2v data (an updated version of HadCRUTv) are available from the Climatic Research Unit website We thank Ben Santer and Gabi Hegerl for very useful reviews, which substantially improved the quality of this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. W. Thorne
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • P. D. Jones
    • 1
  • S. F. B. Tett
    • 2
  • M. R. Allen
    • 3
  • D. E. Parker
    • 2
  • P. A. Stott
    • 2
  • G. S. Jones
    • 2
  • T. J. Osborn
    • 1
  • T. D. Davies
    • 1
  1. 1.Climatic Research Unit, School of Environmental SciencesUniversity of East AngliaNorwichUK
  2. 2.Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and ResearchMet OfficeExeterUK
  3. 3.Atmospheric, Oceanic and Planetary PhysicsUniversity of Oxford, Clarendon LaboratoryOxfordUK

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