We estimate climate sensitivity from observations, using the deseasonalized fluctuations in sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and the concurrent fluctuations in the top-of-atmosphere (TOA) outgoing radiation from the ERBE (1985–1999) and CERES (2000–2008) satellite instruments. Distinct periods of warming and cooling in the SSTs were used to evaluate feedbacks. An earlier study (Lindzen and Choi, 2009) was subject to significant criticisms. The present paper is an expansion of the earlier paper where the various criticisms are taken into account. The present analysis accounts for the 72 day precession period for the ERBE satellite in a more appropriate manner than in the earlier paper. We develop a method to distinguish noise in the outgoing radiation as well as radiation changes that are forcing SST changes from those radiation changes that constitute feedbacks to changes in SST. We demonstrate that our new method does moderately well in distinguishing positive from negative feedbacks and in quantifying negative feedbacks. In contrast, we show that simple regression methods used by several existing papers generally exaggerate positive feedbacks and even show positive feedbacks when actual feedbacks are negative. We argue that feedbacks are largely concentrated in the tropics, and the tropical feedbacks can be adjusted to account for their impact on the globe as a whole. Indeed, we show that including all CERES data (not just from the tropics) leads to results similar to what are obtained for the tropics alone — though with more noise. We again find that the outgoing radiation resulting from SST fluctuations exceeds the zerofeedback response thus implying negative feedback. In contrast to this, the calculated TOA outgoing radiation fluxes from 11 atmospheric models forced by the observed SST are less than the zerofeedback response, consistent with the positive feedbacks that characterize these models. The results imply that the models are exaggerating climate sensitivity.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Bates, R. (2011), Climate stability and Sensitivity in some simple conceptual models. Climate Dyn., Online First, DOI:10.1007/s00382-010-0966-0.
Barkstrom, B. R. (1984) The Earth Radiation Budget Experiment (ERBE). Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc. 65, 1170–1185.
Charney, J. G., and Coauthors, 1979: Carbon dioxide and climate: a scientific assessment, National Research Council, Ad Hoc Study Group on Carbon Dioxide and Climate. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 22 pp.
Chung, E.-S., B. J. Soden, and B. J. Sohn, 2010: Revisiting the determination of climate sensitivity from relationships between surface temperature and radiative fluxes. Geophys. Res. Lett., 37, L10703.
Colman, R., 2003: A comparison of climate feedbacks in general circulation models. Climate Dyn., 20, 865–873.
Crowley, T. J., and G. R. North, 1991: Paleoclimatology. Oxford Univ Press, NY, 339 pp.
Dessler, A. E., 2010: A determination of the cloud feedback from climate variations over the past decade. Science, 330, 1523–1527.
Douglass, D. H., J. R. Christy, B. D. Pearson, and S. F. Singer, 2007: A comparison of tropical temperature trends with model predictions. Int. J. Climatol., 28, 1693–1701.
Forster, P. M., and J. M. Gregory, 2006: The climate sensitivity and its components diagnosed from Earth Radiation Budget data. J. Climate., 19, 39–52.
____, and K. E. Taylor, 2006: Climate forcing and climate sensitivities diagnosed from coupled climate model integrations. J. Climate, 19, 6181–6194.
Hansen, J., and Coauthors, 1993: How sensitive is the world’s climate? Natl. Geogr. Res. Explor. 9, 142–158.
Hartmann, D. L., 1994: Global physical climatology. Academic Press, 411 pp.
Im, E, S. L. Durden, and C. Wu, 2005: Cloud profiling radar for the Cloudsat mission. IEEE Trans. Aerosp. Electron. Syst., 20, 15–18.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007: Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, U. K.
Kanamitsu, M, and Coauthors, 2002: NCEP/DOE AMIP-II Reanalysis (R-2). Bull. Amer. Met. Soc., 83, 1631–1643.
Lindzen, R. S., A. Y. Hou, and B. F. Farrell, 1982: The role of convective model choice in calculating the climate impact of doubling CO2. J. Atmos. Sci., 39, 1189–1205.
____, 1999: The Greenhouse Effect and its problems. Chapter 8 in Climate Policy After Kyoto (T.R. Gerholm, editor), Multi-Science Publishing Co., Brentwood, UK, 170 pp.
____, 1993: Climate dynamics and global change. Annu. Rev. Fluid Mech., 26, 353–378.
____, C. Giannitsis, 1998: On the climatic implications of volcanic cooling. J. Geophys. Res., 103, 5929–5941.
____, M.-D. Chou, and A. Y. Hou, 2001: Does the Earth have an adaptive infrared iris? Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 82, 417–432.
____, 2007: Taking greenhouse warming seriously. Energy & Environment, 18, 937–950.
____, and Y.-S. Choi, 2009: On the determination of climate feedbacks from ERBE data. Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L16705.
Machiels and Deville, Numerical simulation of randomly forced turbulent flows. J. Comput. Phys., 145, 246–279.
Matthews, G, and Coauthors, 2005: “Compensation for spectral darkening of short wave optics occurring on the Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System,” in Earth Observing Systems X, edited by James J. Butler, Proceedings of SPIE Vol. 5882 (SPIE, Bellingham, WA) Article 588212.
Murphy, D. M, and Coauthors, 2009: An observationally based energy balance for the Earth since 1950. J. Geophys. Res., 114, D17107.
____, 2010: Constraining climate sensitivity with linear fits to outgoing radiation. Geophys. Res. Lett., 37, L09704.
Newman, M., P. D. Sardeshmukh, and C. Penland, 2009: How important is air-sea coupling in ENSO and MJO Evolution? J. Climate, 22, 2958–2977.
Pierrehumbert, R. T., 2009: Principles of planetary climate. Cambridge University Press, 688 pp.
Roe, G. H., and M. B. Baker, 2007: Why is climate sensitivity so unpredictable?. Science, 318, 629–632.
Rondanelli, R., and R. S. Lindzen, 2008: Observed variations in convective precipitation fraction and stratiform area with sea surface temperature. J. Geophys. Res., 113, D16119.
Schwartz, S. E., 2007: Heat capacity, time constant, and sensitivity of Earth’s climate system. J. Geophy. Res., 112, D24S05.
____, 2008: Reply to comments by G. Foster et al., R. Knutti et al., and N. Scafetta, on “Heat capacity, time constant, and sensitivity of Earth’s climate system”. J. Geophys. Res., 113, D15195.
Soden, B. J., D. L. Jackson, V. Ramaswamy, M. D. Schwarzkopf, and X. Huang, 2005: The radiative signature of upper tropospheric moistening. Science, 310, 841–844.
Spencer R. W., and W. D. Braswell, 2010: On the diagnosis of radiative feedback in the presence of unknown radiative forcing. J. Geophys. Res., 115, D16109.
Trenberth, K. E., J. T. Fasullo, C. O’Dell, and T. Wong, 2010: Relationships between tropical sea surface temperature and top-of-atmosphere radiation. Geophys. Res. Lett., 37, L03702.
Tsushima, Y., A. Abe-Ouchi, and S. Manabe, 2005: Radiative damping of annual variation in global mean surface temperature: comparison between observed and simulated feedback. Clim. Dyn., 24(6): 591–597.
Wielicki, B. A, and Coauthors, 1998: Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES): Algorithm overview. IEEE Trans. Geosci. Remote. Sens., 36, 1127–1141.
Wong, T, and Coauthors, 2006: Reexamination of the observed decadal variability of the earth radiation budget using altitude-corrected ERBE/ ERBS nonscanner WFOV Data. J. Climate, 19, 4028–4040.
Webb, M. J, and Coauthors, 2006: On the contribution of local feedback mechanisms to the range of climate sensitivity in two GCM ensembles. Clim. Dyn. 27, 17–38.
Winker, D. M., W. H. Hunt, and M. J. McGill, 2007: Initial performance assessment of CALIOP. Geophys. Res. Lett., 34, L19803.
Young, D. F, and Coauthors, 1998: Temporal Interpolation Methods for the Clouds and Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) Experiment. J. Appl. Meteorol., 37, 572–590.
About this article
Cite this article
Lindzen, R.S., Choi, YS. On the observational determination of climate sensitivity and its implications. Asia-Pacific J Atmos Sci 47, 377 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13143-011-0023-x
- Climate sensitivity
- climate feedback