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Impact of aerosol radiative effects on 2000–2010 surface temperatures

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Aerosol radiative forcing from direct and indirect effects of aerosols is examined over the recent past (last 10–15 years) using updated sulfate aerosol emissions in two Earth System Models with very different surface temperature responses to aerosol forcing. The hypothesis is that aerosol forcing and in particular, the impact of indirect effects of aerosols on clouds (Aerosol–Cloud Interactions, or ACI), explains the recent ‘hiatus’ in global mean surface temperature increases. Sulfate aerosol emissions increase globally from 2000 to 2005, and then decrease slightly to 2010. Thus the change in anthropogenic sulfate induced net global radiative forcing is small over the period. Regionally, there are statistically significant forcings that are similar in both models, and consistent with changes in simulated emissions and aerosol optical depth. Coupled model simulations are performed to look at impacts of the forcing on recent surface temperatures. Temperature response patterns in the models are similar, and reflect the regional radiative forcing. Pattern correlations indicate significant correlations between observed decadal surface temperature changes and simulated surface temperature changes from recent sulfate aerosol forcing in an equilibrium framework. Sulfate ACI might be a contributor to the spatial patterns of recent temperature forcing, but not to the global mean ‘hiatus’ itself.

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The National Center for Atmospheric Research is sponsored by the U.S. National Science Foundation. Thanks to S. Tilmes and P. Bogenschutz for comments, and Greg Faluvegi for assistance with ModelE2 simulations. CESM Computing resources (ark:/85065/d7wd3xhc) were provided by the Climate Simulation Laboratory at NCAR’s Computational and Information Systems Laboratory, sponsored by the National Science Foundation and other agencies. ModelE2 computer resources were provided by the NASA High-End Computing Program through the NASA Center for Climate Simulation at Goddard Space Flight Center.

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Correspondence to A. Gettelman.

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Gettelman, A., Shindell, D.T. & Lamarque, J.F. Impact of aerosol radiative effects on 2000–2010 surface temperatures. Clim Dyn 45, 2165–2179 (2015).

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