Climate Dynamics

, Volume 34, Issue 7–8, pp 1139–1156 | Cite as

Probabilistic estimates of recent changes in temperature: a multi-scale attribution analysis

  • Nikolaos ChristidisEmail author
  • Peter A. Stott
  • Francis W. Zwiers
  • Hideo Shiogama
  • Toru Nozawa


The role of anthropogenic forcings in temperature changes during recent decades is investigated over a range of spatial scales. Changes in the annual mean surface temperature and also in the warmest night of the year, which has implications for human health, are considered. Distributions of regional trends with and without the effect of human activity are produced, using constraints from a global optimal detection analysis. Anthropogenic forcings are estimated to have more than doubled the likelihood of mean warming in all regions considered except central North America, where results are more model dependent. The likelihood of warming of the warmest night has also increased, but the estimated change is more uncertain. Inferences on sub-continental scales are indicative rather than definitive because of the absence of locally important forcings and processes in model simulations, as well as model biases. As model inconsistencies may impact regional analyses, a multi-model approach is essential.


Attribution Multi-scale Regional Multi-model Temperature extremes 



The authors are grateful to two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments. NC and PAS were supported by the Joint DECC, Defra and MoD Integrated Climate Programme—DECC/Defra (GA01101), MoD (CBC/2B/0417_Annex C5). HS and TN were funded by the Innovative Program of Climate Change Projection for the 21st century from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan, and by the Global Environment Research Fund (S-5) of the Ministry of the Environment of Japan. We thank Chris Huntingford and Myles Allen for their contribution to the development of the EIV software.


  1. Allen MR (2003) Liability for climate change. Nature 421:891–892CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allen MR, Smith LA (1996) Monte Carlo SSA: detecting irregular oscillations in the presence of coloured noise. J Clim 9:3373–3404CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Allen MR, Stott PA (2003) Estimating signal amplitudes in optimal fingerprinting, part I: theory. Clim Dyn 21:477–491CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Allen MR, Tett SFB (1999) Checking for model consistency in optimal fingerprinting. Clim Dyn 15:419–434CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Beniston M (2004) The 2003 heat wave in Europe: a shape of things to come? An analysis based on Swiss climatological data and model simulations. Geophys Res Lett 31. doi: 10.1029/2003GL018857
  6. Brohan P, Kennedy JJ, Harris I, Tett SFB, Jones PD (2006) Uncertainty estimates in regional and global observed temperature changes: a new data set from 1850. J Geophys Res 111. doi: 10.1029/2005JD006548
  7. Caesar J, Alexander L, Vose R (2006) Large-scale changes in observed daily maximum and minimum temperatures: creation and analysis of a new gridded dataset. J Geophys Res 111. doi:  10.1029/2005JD006280
  8. Christidis N, Stott PA, Brown S, Hegerl GC, Caesar J (2005) Detection of changes in temperature extremes during the second half of the 20th century. Geophys Res Lett 32. doi: 10.1029/2005GL023885
  9. Furrer R, Sain SR, Nychka D, Meehl GA (2007) Multivariate Bayesian analysis of atmosphere-ocean general circulation models. Environ Ecol Stat 14:249–266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Gillett NP, Zwiers FW, Weaver AJ, Hegerl GC, Allen MR, Stott PA (2002) Detecting anthropogenic influence with a multi-model ensemble. Geophys Res Lett 29. doi: 10.1029/2002GL015836
  11. Giorgi F (2002) Variability and trends of sub-continental scale surface climate in the twentieth century, Part I: observations. Clim Dyn 18:675–691CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Giorgi F, Francisco R (2000) Uncertainties in regional climate change prediction: a regional analysis of ensemble simulations with the HADCM2 coupled AOGCM. Clim Dyn 16. doi: 10.1007/PL00013733
  13. Gordon C, Cooper C, Senior CA, Banks H, Gregory JM, Johns TC, Mitchell JFB, Wood RA (2000) The simulation of SST, sea ice extents and ocean heat transports in a version of the Hadley Centre coupled model without flux adjustments. Clim Dyn 16:147–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Greene AM, Goddard L, Lall U (2006) Probabilistic multimodel regional temperature change projections. J Clim 19:4326–4343CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hasselmann K (1997) Multi-pattern fingerprint method for detection and attribution of climate change. Clim Dyn 13:601–612CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hegerl GC, Hasselmann K, Cubasch U, Mitchell JFB, Roeckner E, Voss R, Waszkewitz J (1997) Multi-fingerprint detection and attribution analysis of greenhouse gases, greenhouse gas plus aerosol, and solar forced climate change. Clim Dyn 13:613–634CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hegerl GC, Zwiers FW, Stott PA, Kharin VV (2004) Detectability of anthropogenic changes in annual temperature and precipitation extremes. J Clim 17:3683–3700CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hegerl GC, Karl TR, Allen M, Bindoff NL, Gillett N, Karoly D, Zhang X, Zwiers F (2006) Climate change and attribution: beyond mean temperature signals. J Clim 19:5058–5077CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hegerl GC, Zwiers FW, Braconnot P, Gillet NP, Luo Y, Marengo Orsini JA, Nicholls N, Penner JE, Stott PA (2007) Understanding and attributing climate change. In: Solomon S et al (eds) Climate change 2007: The physical science basis. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 663–745Google Scholar
  20. Hirabayashi Y, Kanae S, Struthers I, Oki T (2005) A 100-year (1901–2000) global retrospective estimation of the terrestrial water cycle. J Geophys Res 110. doi: 10.1029/2004JD005492
  21. Huntingford C, Stott PA, Allen MR, Lambert FH (2006) Incorporating model uncertainty into attribution of observed temperature change. Geophys Res Lett 33. doi:  10.1029/2005GL024831
  22. Johns TC, Carnell RE, Crossley JF, Gregory JM, Mitchell JFB, Senior CA, Tett SFB, Wood RA (2002) Anthropogenic climate change for 1860 to 2100 simulated with the HadCM3 model under updated emissions scenarios. Clim Dyn 20:583–612Google Scholar
  23. Jones GS, Stott PA, Christidis N (2008) Human contribution to rapidly increasing frequency of very warm Northern Hemisphere summers. J Geophys Res 113. doi: 10.1029/2007JD008914
  24. K-1 Model Developers (2004) K-1 coupled GCM (MIROC) description, K-1 Tech Rep. In: Hasumi H, Emori S (eds) Centre for Climatic Systems Research, University of TokyoGoogle Scholar
  25. Karoly DJ, Braganza K (2005) Attribution of recent temperature changes in the Australian region. J Clim 18:457–464CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Karoly DJ, Stott PA (2006) Anthropogenic warming of central England temperature. Atmos Sci Lett 7:81–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Karoly DJ, Wu Q (2005) Detection of regional surface temperature trends. J Clim 18:4337–4343CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Karoly DJ, Braganza K, Stott PA, Arblaster JM, Meehl GA, Broccoli AJ, Dixon KW (2003) Detection of a human influence of North America climate. Science 302:1200–1203CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Klein Tank AMG, Können GP (2003) Trends in indices of daily temperature and precipitation extremes in Europe, 1946–99. J Clim 16:3665–3680CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kunkel KE, Liang X-Z, Zhu J, Lin Y (2006) Can CGCMs simulate the twentieth-century “warming hole” in the Central United States? J Clim 19:4137–4153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. McMichael AJ, Woodruff RE, Hales S (2006) Climate change and human health: present and future risks. Lancet 367:859–869CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Medina-Ramón M, Zanobetti A, Cavanagh DP, Schwartz J (2006) Extreme temperatures and mortality: assessing effect modification by personal characteristics and specific cause of death in a multi-city case-only analysis. Environ Health Perspect 114:1331–1336CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mitchell JFB, Karoly DJ, Hegerl GC, Zwiers FW, Allen MR, Marengo J (2001) Detection of climate change and attribution of causes. In: Houghton JT et al (eds) Climate change 2001: the scientific basis. Cambridge University Press, New York, pp 695–738Google Scholar
  34. Nagashima T, Shiogama H, Yokohata T, Takemura T, Crooks SA, Nozawa T (2006) The effect of carbonaceous aerosols on surface temperature in the mid twentieth century. Geophys Res Lett 33. doi: 10.1029/2005GL024887
  35. Nounou M, Bakshi BR, Goel PK, Shen X (2002) Process modelling by bayesian latent variable regression. AIChE J 48:1775–1793CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Nozawa T, Nagashima T, Shiogama H, Crooks SA (2005) Detecting natural influence of surface air temperature change in the early twentieth century. Geophys Res Lett 32. doi: 10.1029/2005GL023540
  37. Pope VD, Gallani ML, Rowntree PR, Stratton RA (2000) The impact of new physical parametrizations in the Hadley Centre climate model HadAM3. Clim Dyn 16:123–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Santer BD, Taylor KE, Wigley TML, Johns TC, Jones PD, Karoly DJ, Mitchell JFB, Oort AH, Penner JE, Ramaswamy V, Schwarzkopf MD, Stouffer RJ, Tett S (1996) A search for human influences on the thermal structure of the atmosphere. Nature 382:39–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Schär C, Vidale PL, Lüthi D, Frei C, Häberli C, Liniger MA, Appenzeller C (2004) The role of increasing temperature variability in European summer heatwaves. Nature 427:332–336CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Shiogama H, Christidis N, Caesar J, Yokohata T, Nozawa T, Emori S (2006) Detection of greenhouse gas and aerosol influences on changes in temperature extremes. SOLA 2:152–155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Stone DA, Allen MR (2005) The end-to-end attribution problem: from emissions to impacts. Clim Change 71:303–318CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Stott PA (2003) Attribution of regional-scale temperature changes to anthropogenic and natural causes. Geophys Res Lett 30. doi: 10.1029/2003GL017324
  43. Stott PA, Tett SFB, Jones GS, Allen MR, Mitchell JFB, Jenkins GJ (2000) External control of twentieth century temperature variations by natural and anthropogenic forcings. Science 290:2133–2137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Stott PA (2003) Attribution of regional-scale temperature changes to anthropogenic and natural causes. Geophys Res Lett 30. doi: 10.1029/2003GL017324
  45. Stott PA, Stone DA, Allen MR (2004) Human contribution to the European heatwave of 2003. Nature 432:610–613CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Stott PA, Mitchell JFB, Allen MR, Delworth TL, Gregory JM, Meehl GA, Santer BD (2006a) Observational constraints on past attributable warming and predictions of future global warming. J Clim 19:3055–3069CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Stott PA, Kettleborough JA, Allen MR (2006b) Uncertainty in continental-scale temperature predictions. Geophys Res Lett 33. doi: 10.1029/2005GL024423
  48. Tebaldi C, Smith RL, Nychka D, Mearns LO (2005) Quantifying uncertainty in projections of regional climate change: a Bayesian approach to the analysis of multimodel ensembles. J Clim 18:1524–1540CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Tebaldi C, Knutti R (2007) The use of multi-model ensemble in probabilistic climate projections. Philos Trans R Soc 365:2053–2075CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Tett SFB, Stott PA, Allen MR, Ingram WJ, Mitchell JFB (1999) Causes of twentieth-century temperature change near the earth’s surface. Nature 399:569–572CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Tett SFB, Jones GS, Stott PA, Hill DC, Mitchell JFB, Allen MR, Ingram WJ, Johns TC, Johnson CE, Jones A, Roberts DL, Sexton DMH, Woodage MJ (2002) Estimation of natural and anthropogenic contributions to twentieth century temperature change. J Geophys Res 107. doi: 10.1029/2000JD000028
  52. Washington WM, Weatherly JW, Meehl GA, Semtner AJ Jr, Bettge TW, Craig AP, Strand WG Jr, Arblaster J, Wayland VB, James R, Zhang Y (2000) Parallel climate model (PCM) control and transient simulations. Clim Dyn 16:755–774CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Williams KD, Senior CA, Mitchell JFB (2001) Transient climate change in the Hadley Centre models: the roles of physical processes. J Clim 14:2659–2674CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Yokohata T, Emori S, Nozawa T, Tsushima Y, Ogura T, Kimoto M (2005) Climate response to volcanic forcing: validation of climate sensitivity of a coupled atmosphere-ocean general circulation model. Geophys Res Lett 32. doi: 10.1029/2005GL023542
  55. Zwiers FW, Zhang X (2003) Toward regional scale climate change detection. J Clim 16:793–797CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Crown Copyright 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nikolaos Christidis
    • 1
    Email author
  • Peter A. Stott
    • 2
  • Francis W. Zwiers
    • 3
  • Hideo Shiogama
    • 4
  • Toru Nozawa
    • 4
  1. 1.Met Office Hadley CentreExeterUK
  2. 2.Met Office Hadley Centre (Reading Unit), Meteorology BuildingUniversity of ReadingReadingUK
  3. 3.Climate Research DivisionEnvironment CanadaTorontoCanada
  4. 4.National Institute for Environmental StudiesTsukubaJapan

Personalised recommendations