Inferences from observations and modelling on recent and future climate


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Christian.Stepanek [ at ] awi.de

Abstract

Climate patterns are influenced by internal variability and forcing. A major forcing is carbon dioxide that influences, together with other greenhouse gases, the equilibrium temperature of the Earth system. Over millions of years, carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere have been regulated by a fine balance between outgassing from the Earth’s mantle – via volcanic activity – and removal and sequestration – via chemical weathering. Small disturbances of this equilibrium have been amplified by climate system feedbacks and caused, over millions of years, a transition of the Earth system from a nearly ice free “hothouse” state to the modern glaciated “icehouse”, with major ice sheets at high latitudes. Over the last two million years, orbital forcing, i.e. the astronomical configuration of the Earth-Sun-system – that is related to quasi-periodical climate transitions at multi-millennial time scale – had strongest control on climate. Variations of the Earth’s orbital elements create pronounced oscillations between more and less extensive glaciation in particular of the Northern Hemisphere. These are known as the glacial-interglacial cycles of the Pleistocene. Since the dawn of the industrial era climate has been deteriorated at a rate that is unique during the recent geologic history of the last 50-60 million years. Current rise in carbon dioxide occurs at a rate that is unprecedented, bringing us from the stage of Pleistocene glacial cycles again closer to a hothouse climate. Current levels of carbon dioxide excite the climate/earth system to a state far beyond its natural equilibrium. Climate system components with large thermal inertia, including ice sheets and oceans, cause delayed reaction of the climate and earth system to anthropogenic activity, and cause continued warming even if current levels of anthropogenic greenhouse forcing are stabilized. Recent research highlights that the climate system’s reaction to anthropogenic forcing intensifies. Related to distortion of the probability density function of climate variables, e.g. temperature, formerly extreme weather conditions become more abundant. Record-breaking ocean heat content, accelerated retreat of smaller ice masses like alpine glaciers, and minimum sea ice extent show that climate is changing at a pace so far not experienced by modern societies. In this talk we will review recent climate change and survey methods of climate research. This will be put into context of future climate projections.



Item Type
Conference (Invited talk)
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Not peer-reviewed
Publication Status
Published
Event Details
ENB Doktorandenworkshop 2020, 17 Feb 2020 - 21 Feb 2020, Vila Lanna, Representative property of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Prague, Czech Republic.
Eprint ID
51243
Cite as
Stepanek, C. (2020): Inferences from observations and modelling on recent and future climate , ENB Doktorandenworkshop 2020, Vila Lanna, Representative property of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Prague, Czech Republic, 17 February 2020 - 21 February 2020 .


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