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An examination of climate sensitivity for idealised climate change experiments in an intermediate general circulation model

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 Radiative forcing and climate sensitivity have been widely used as concepts to understand climate change. This work performs climate change experiments with an intermediate general circulation model (IGCM) to examine the robustness of the radiative forcing concept for carbon dioxide and solar constant changes. This IGCM has been specifically developed as a computationally fast model, but one that allows an interaction between physical processes and large-scale dynamics; the model allows many long integrations to be performed relatively quickly. It employs a fast and accurate radiative transfer scheme, as well as simple convection and surface schemes, and a slab ocean, to model the effects of climate change mechanisms on the atmospheric temperatures and dynamics with a reasonable degree of complexity. The climatology of the IGCM run at T-21 resolution with 22 levels is compared to European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting Reanalysis data. The response of the model to changes in carbon dioxide and solar output are examined when these changes are applied globally and when constrained geographically (e.g. over land only). The CO2 experiments have a roughly 17% higher climate sensitivity than the solar experiments. It is also found that a forcing at high latitudes causes a 40% higher climate sensitivity than a forcing only applied at low latitudes. It is found that, despite differences in the model feedbacks, climate sensitivity is roughly constant over a range of distributions of CO2 and solar forcings. Hence, in the IGCM at least, the radiative forcing concept is capable of predicting global surface temperature changes to within 30%, for the perturbations described here. It is concluded that radiative forcing remains a useful tool for assessing the natural and anthropogenic impact of climate change mechanisms on surface temperature.

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Received: 8 November 1999 / Accepted: 7 March 2000

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de F. Forster, P., Blackburn, M., Glover, R. et al. An examination of climate sensitivity for idealised climate change experiments in an intermediate general circulation model. Climate Dynamics 16, 833–849 (2000).

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