Climate Dynamics

, Volume 39, Issue 6, pp 1259–1274 | Cite as

The contribution of anthropogenic forcings to regional changes in temperature during the last decade

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


Regional distributions of the mean annual temperature in the 2000s are computed with and without the effect of anthropogenic influences on the climate in several sub-continental regions. Simulated global patterns of the temperature response to external forcings are regressed against observations using optimal fingerprinting. The global analysis provides constraints which are then used to construct the regional temperature distributions. A similar approach was also employed in previous work, but here the methodology is extended to examine changes in any region, including areas with a poor observational coverage that were omitted in the earlier study. Two different General Circulation Models (GCMs) are used in the analysis. Anthropogenic forcings are found to have at least quadrupled the likelihood of occurrence of a year warmer than the warmest year since 1900 in 23 out of the 24 regions. The temperature distributions computed with the two models are very similar. While a more detailed assessment of model dependencies remains to be made once additional suitable GCM simulations become available, the present study introduces the statistical methodology and demonstrates its first application. The derived information concerning the effect of human influences on the regional climate is useful for adaptation planning. Moreover, by pre-computing the change in the likelihood of exceeding a temperature threshold over a range of thresholds, this kind of analysis enables a near real-time assessment of the anthropogenic impact on the observed regional temperatures.


Detection and attribution Regional temperature Anthropogenic forcings 



We are grateful to the two reviewers for their constructive comments. NC and PAS were supported by the Joint DECC/Defra Met Office Hadley Centre Climate Programme (GA01101). Hideo Shiogama and Toru Nozawa were supported by the Global Environment Research Fund (S-5) of the Ministry of Environment of Japan.


  1. Allen MR (2003) Liability for climate change. Nature 421:892CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allen MR, Stott PA (2003) Estimating signal amplitudes in optimal fingerprinting, part I: theory. Clim Dyn 21:477–491CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Allen MR, Tett SFB (1999) Checking for model consistency in optimal fingerprinting. Clim Dyn 15:419–434CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barnett TP, Pierce DW, Hidalgo HG, Bonfils C, Santer BD, Das T, Bala G, Wood AW, Nozawa T, Mirin AA, Cayan DR, Dettinger MD (2008) Human-induced changes in the hydrology of the Western United States. Science 319:1080–1083CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Beniston M (2003) Climatic change in mountain regions: a review of possible impacts. Clim Change 59:5–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Boko M, Niang I, Nyong A, Vogel C, Githeko A, Medany M, Osman-Elasha B, Tabo R, Yanda P (2007) Africa climate change 2007: impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. In: Parry ML et al (eds) Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 433–467Google Scholar
  7. Bounoua L, Defries R, Collatz GJ, Sellers P, Khan H (2002) Effects of land cover conversion on surface climate. Clim Change 52:29–64CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brohan P, JJ Kennedy, 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
  9. Christensen JH, Hewitson B, Busuioc A, Chen A, Gao X, Held I, Jones R, Kolli RK, Kwon W-T, Laprise R, Magaña Rueda V, Mearns L, Menéndez CG, Räisänen J, Rinke A, Sarr A, Whetton P (2007) Regional climate projections. Climate change 2007: the physical science basis. In: Solomon S et al (eds) Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 847–940Google Scholar
  10. Christidis N, Donaldson GC, Stott PA (2010a) Causes for the recent changes in cold- and heat-related mortality in England and Wales. Clim Change 102:539–553CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Christidis N, Stott PA, Zwiers FW, Shiogama H, Nozawa T (2010b) Probabilistic estimates of recent changes in temperature: a multi-scale attribution analysis. Clim Dyn 34:1139–1156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Christidis N, Stott PA, Jones GS, Shiogama H, Nozawa T, Luterbacher J (2011) Human activity and anomalously warm seasons in Europe. Int J Clim (in press)Google Scholar
  13. Findell KL, Shevliakova E, Milly PCD, Stouffer RJ (2007) Modelled impact of anthropogenic land cover change on climate. J Clim 20:3621–3634CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gillett NP, Allen MR, Tett SFB (2000) Modelled and observed variability in atmospheric vertical temperature structure. Clim Dyn 16:49–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gillett NP, Stone DA, Stott PA, Nozawa T, Yu Karpechko A, Hegerl GC, Wehner MF, Jones PD (2008) Attribution of polar warming to human influences. Nat Geosci 1:750–754CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 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
  17. Hansen J, Lebedeff S (1987) Global trends of measured surface air temperature. J Geophys Res 92:13345–13372CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hasselmann K (1993) Optimal fingerprints for the detection of the time dependent climate change. J Clim 6:1957–1971CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hegerl GC, Zwiers FW (2011) Use of models in detection and attribution of climate change, WIRES (submitted)Google Scholar
  20. 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
  21. 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. Climate change 2007: the physical science basis. In: Solomon S et al (eds) Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 663–745Google Scholar
  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. Johns TC, Durman CF, Banks HT, Roberts MJ, McLaren AJ, Ridley JK, Senior CA, Williams KD, Jones A, Rickard GJ, Cusack S, Ingram WJ, Crucifix M, Sexton DMH, Joshi MM, Dong B-W, Spencer H, Hill RSR, Gregory JM, Keen AB, Pardaens AK, Lowe JA, Bodas-Salcedo A, Stark S, Searl Y (2006) The new Hadley Centre climate model HadGEM1: evaluation of coupled simulations. J Clim 19:1327–1353CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Jones GS, Christidis N, Stott PA (2011) Detecting the influence of fossil fuel and bio-fuel black carbon aerosols on near surface temperature changes. Atmos Chem Phys 11:799–816CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. K-1 Model Developers (2004) K-1 coupled GCM (MIROC) description, K-1 Tech Rep. In: Hasumi H, Emori S (eds) Centre for Clim Sys Res, University of TokyoGoogle Scholar
  26. Martin GM, Ringer MA, Pope VD, Jones A, Dearden C, Hinton T (2006) The physical properties of the atmosphere in the new Hadley Centre global environmental model (HadGEM1). Part I: model description and global climatology. J Clim 19:1274–1301CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Min S-K, Zhang X, Zwiers FW (2008) Human induced arctic moistening. Science 320:518–520CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Min S-K, Zhang X, Zwiers FW, Hegerl GC (2011) Human contribution to more intense precipitation events. Nature 470:378–381CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Mitchell JFB, Karoly DJ, Hegerl GC, Zwiers FW, Allen MR, Marengo J (2001) Detection of climate change and attribution of causes. Climate change 2001: the scientific basis. In: Houghton JT et al (eds) Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 695–738Google Scholar
  30. Nagashima T, Shiogama H, Yokohata T, Takemura T, Crooks SA, Nozawa T (2006) Effect of carbonaceous aerosols on surface temperature in the mid-twentieth century. Geophys Res Lett 33. doi: 10.1029/2005GL024887
  31. Nemani RR, White MA, Cayan DR, Jones GV, Running SW, Coughlan JC, Peterson DL (2001) Asymmetric warming over coastal California and its impact on the premium wine industry. Clim Res 19:25–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. North GR, Wang J, Genton MG (2011) Correlation models for temperature fields. J Clim. doi: 10.1175/2011JCLI4199.1 (in press)
  33. 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
  34. Ramanathan V, Ramana MV, Roberts G, Kim D, Corrigan C, Chung C, Winker D (2007) Warming trends in Asia amplified by brown cloud solar absorption. Nature 448:575–578CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Stone DA, Allen MR (2005) The end-to-end attribution problem: from emissions to impacts. Clim Change 71:303–318CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Stott PA (2003) Attribution of regional-scale temperature changes to anthropogenic and natural causes. Geophys Res Lett 30. doi: 10.1029/2003GL017324
  37. 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
  38. Stott PA, Stone DA, Allen MR (2004) Human contribution to the European heatwave of 2003. Nature 432:610–613Google Scholar
  39. Stott PA, Jones GS, Lowe JA, Thorne P, Durman CF, Johns TC, Thelen J-C (2006) Transient climate simulations with the HadGEM1 climate model: causes of past warming and future climate change. J Clim 19:2763–2782CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Stott PA, Gillett NP, Hegerl GC, Karoly D, Stone D, Zhang X, Zwiers F (2010) Detection and attribution of climate change: a regional perspective. Wiley Interdiscip Rev: Clim Change 1:192–211Google Scholar
  41. Stott PA, Jones GS, Christidis N, Zwiers FW, Hegerl GC, Siogama H (2011) Single-step attribution of increasing frequencies of very warm regional temperatures to human influence. Atmos Sci Lett 12:220–227CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Stouffer RJ, Hegerl GC, Tett SFB (2000) A comparison of surface air temperature variability in three 1000-year coupled ocean-atmosphere model integrations. J Clim 16:513–537CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 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
  44. 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
  45. UNESCO-WWAP (2006) Water: a shared responsibility. United Nations world water development report 2. United Nations educational, scientific and cultural organisation (UNESCO) and the United Nations World Water Assessment Programme, 601 ppGoogle Scholar
  46. 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: 10.1029/2005GL023424
  47. Zhang Z, Zwiers FW, Hegerl GC, Lambert FH, Gillett NP, Solomon S, Stott PA, Nozawa T (2007) Detection of human influence on twentieth-century precipitation trends. Nature 448:461–466CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Zwiers FW, Zhang X (2003) Toward regional scale climate change detection. J Clim 16:793–797CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Zwiers FW, Zhang X, Feng Y (2011) Anthropogenic influence on long return period daily temperature extremes at regional scales. J Clim 24:881–892Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Crown Copyright 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nikolaos Christidis
    • 1
    Email author
  • Peter A. Stott
    • 1
  • Francis W. Zwiers
    • 2
  • Hideo Shiogama
    • 3
  • Toru Nozawa
    • 3
  1. 1.Met Office Hadley CentreExeterUK
  2. 2.Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium, University House 1University of VictoriaVictoriaCanada
  3. 3.National Institute for Environmental StudiesTsukubaJapan

Personalised recommendations