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Earth sciences - Atmospheric science

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29 May 2013

Untangling the confusion around land carbon science and climate change mitigation policy

Two important aims of mitigation policy are to maintain land carbon stocks and reduce terrestrial ecosystem-based emissions. This Perspective discusses the scientific issues involved, argues that current negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change are not solidly grounded in science, and proposes some ways forward.

  • Brendan Mackey
  • I. Colin Prentice
  • Will Steffen
  • Joanna I. House
  • David Lindenmayer
  • Heather Keith
  • Sandra Berry
28 Apr 2013

Springtime atmospheric energy transport and the control of Arctic summer sea-ice extent

The causes of interannual variability in Arctic sea-ice extent are not well understood. This study looks at the impact of the greenhouse effect, associated with clouds and water vapour, on sea-ice formation and melt. Enhancement of the greenhouse effect, due to increased cloudiness and humidity, results in increased ice melt.

  • Marie-Luise Kapsch
  • Rune Grand Graversen
  • Michael Tjernström
25 Apr 2013

Atmospheric science: Dust may cool polar regions

Climate change is amplified in polar regions compared with the rest of the globe. A study now describes how dust particles and other aerosols may contribute to this phenomenon.

  • Peter Knippertz
News and Views
25 Apr 2013

Coral Bleaching: Coral 'refugia' amid heating seas

The Earth is getting hotter as carbon dioxide, predominantly from the burning of fossil fuels, continues to accumulate in the atmosphere. It is widely recognized that increasing temperatures pose a threat to coral reefs, but just how large a risk are these reefs facing?

  • Ken Caldeira
News and Views
14 Apr 2013

Multiple greenhouse-gas feedbacks from the land biosphere under future climate change scenarios

The sensitivity of the terrestrial biosphere to changes in climate constitutes a feedback mechanism with the potential to accentuate global warming. Process-based modelling experiments now indicate that under a business-as-usual emissions scenario the biosphere on land is expected to be an increasingly positive feedback to anthropogenic climate change, potentially amplifying equilibrium climate sensitivity by 22–27%.

  • Benjamin D. Stocker
  • Raphael Roth
  • Fortunat Joos
  • Renato Spahni
  • Marco Steinacher
  • Soenke Zaehle
  • Lex Bouwman
  • Xu-Ri
  • Iain Colin Prentice
14 Apr 2013

Mitigation of short-lived climate pollutants slows sea-level rise

Short-lived climate pollutants are known to contribute to global warming, but the impact of this increased temperature on sea-level rise due to thermal expansion is not known. Curbing emissions of these pollutants is shown to significantly reduce the rate of sea-level rise by 24–50% by 2100; however, delaying mitigation by 25 years reduces the impact on sea-level rise by about a third.

  • Aixue Hu
  • Yangyang Xu
  • Claudia Tebaldi
  • Warren M. Washington
  • Veerabhadran Ramanathan
8 Apr 2013

Intensification of winter transatlantic aviation turbulence in response to climate change

Most weather-related aircraft incidents are caused by atmospheric turbulence; however, the effects of changing climate are not known. Climate model simulations show that clear-air turbulence, associated with jet streams, changes significantly for the transatlantic flight corridor when atmospheric carbon dioxide is doubled. These results suggest that climate change will lead to bumpier transatlantic flights by the middle of this century.

  • Paul D. Williams
  • Manoj M. Joshi
7 Apr 2013

Retrospective prediction of the global warming slowdown in the past decade

In recent years the global warming trend has plateaued, despite increasing anthropogenic emissions. Now research attributes this plateau to an increase in ocean heat uptake, through retrospective predictions of up to 5 years in length. The ability to hindcast this warming plateau strengthens our confidence in the robustness of climate models.

  • Virginie Guemas
  • Francisco J. Doblas-Reyes
  • Isabel Andreu-Burillo
  • Muhammad Asif
31 Mar 2013

Asymmetric forcing from stratospheric aerosols impacts Sahelian rainfall

Sahelian drought is investigated by analysing de-trended observations between 1900 and 2010, which show that substantial Northern Hemisphere volcanic eruptions preceded three of the four driest summers. Modelling both episodic volcanic eruptions and geoengineering by continuous deliberate stratospheric injection shows that large asymmetric aerosol loadings in the Northern Hemisphere are a precursor of Sahelian drought, whereas if the aerosol loadings are concentrated in the Southern Hemisphere greening of the Sahel is induced.

  • Jim M. Haywood
  • Andy Jones
  • Nicolas Bellouin
  • David Stephenson
26 Mar 2013

Atmospheric science: Short-term impacts

  • Bronwyn Wake
Research Highlights
10 Mar 2013

Attribution of historical ozone forcing to anthropogenic emissions

Current thinking on the causes of anthropogenic radiative forcing in the lower atmosphere is misleading. This study finds tropospheric ozone-precursor emissions have contributed more to positive forcing, and halocarbons more to negative forcing, than previously thought.

  • Drew Shindell
  • Greg Faluvegi
  • Larissa Nazarenko
  • Kevin Bowman
  • Jean-Francois Lamarque
  • Apostolos Voulgarakis
  • Gavin A. Schmidt
  • Olga Pechony
  • Reto Ruedy
10 Mar 2013

Recent multidecadal strengthening of the Walker circulation across the tropical Pacific

The Walker circulation is a large overturning cell that spans the tropical Pacific Ocean. Fluctuations in this circulation reflect changes in tropical heating, and have global impacts on temperature and precipitation. Analysis of trends in sea-level pressure from ten data sets reveals strengthening of the Walker circulation in line with increasing global temperature, which is counter to current model predictions.

  • Michelle L. L’Heureux
  • Sukyoung Lee
  • Bradfield Lyon
3 Mar 2013

Malaria epidemics and the influence of the tropical South Atlantic on the Indian monsoon

The influence of relatively slow changes in sea surface temperature on regional climate variability can provide a basis for medium-term (seasonal to decadal) prediction of many environmental factors. Research now shows that the sea surface temperature in the tropical South Atlantic can act as a dominant driver of rainfall variability, and hence outbreaks of malaria in northwest India.

  • B. A. Cash
  • X. Rodó
  • J. Ballester
  • M. J. Bouma
  • A. Baeza
  • R. Dhiman
  • M. Pascual
26 Feb 2013

Atmospheric Science: Black carbon punch

  • Alastair Brown
Research Highlights
26 Feb 2013

Atmospheric science: Shifting westerly winds

  • Bronwyn Wake
Research Highlights
10 Feb 2013

Atmospheric verification of anthropogenic CO2 emission trends

There is a widespread assumption that changes in reported anthropogenic global CO2 emissions are indicative of changes in climate and ocean chemistry. However, examination of atmospheric CO2 measurements from the past two decades challenges this idea. A new study develops and advocates use of CO2 measurement practices that reduce uncertainty in atmospheric verification of emissions, and identifies modelling inadequacies.

  • Roger J. Francey
  • Cathy M. Trudinger
  • Marcel van der Schoot
  • Rachel M. Law
  • Paul B. Krummel
  • Ray L. Langenfelds
  • L. Paul Steele
  • Colin E. Allison
  • Ann R. Stavert
  • Robert J. Andres
  • Christian Rödenbeck
29 Jan 2013

Alternative energy: Plenty of wind

By exerting a drag on the atmosphere, wind turbines convert a fraction of the atmosphere's kinetic energy to electrical energy. To find the point of diminishing returns, a new study adds so much drag to a simulated atmosphere that the winds slow to a crawl.

  • Daniel Kirk-Davidoff
News and Views
29 Jan 2013

Atmospheric science: Aerosol impacts

  • Bronwyn Wake
Research Highlights
27 Jan 2013

Energy consumption and the unexplained winter warming over northern Asia and North America

Research shows that incorporating energy consumption in a global climate model can explain past surface temperature changes of as much as 1 K in mid and high latitudes in winter and autumn over most part of North America and Eurasia. This study concludes that energy use should be considered as an additional forcing in simulations to project future climate change.

  • Guang J. Zhang
  • Ming Cai
  • Aixue Hu
13 Jan 2013

Projected changes in wave climate from a multi-model ensemble

Changing wind-wave climate has the potential to exacerbate, or negate, the impacts of sea-level rise in coastal zones. Results from the first community-derived multi-model ensemble of wind-wave climate projections show agreement over extended regions of the global ocean. Large uncertainty in available wave-climate projections is found to be due to downscaling methods.

  • Mark A. Hemer
  • Yalin Fan
  • Nobuhito Mori
  • Alvaro Semedo
  • Xiaolan L. Wang
6 Jan 2013

Impacts of biofuel cultivation on mortality and crop yields

Many plant species used for biofuel emit more isoprene—an ozone precursor—than the traditional crops they are replacing. A modelling study now indicates the potential for significant human mortality and crop losses due to changes in ground-level ozone concentrations that could arise from large-scale biofuel cultivation in Europe. These findings suggest that biofuel policies could have adverse consequences that should be evaluated alongside carbon-budgeting considerations before large-scale policies are implemented.

  • K. Ashworth
  • O. Wild
  • C. N. Hewitt
6 Jan 2013

The role of mineral-dust aerosols in polar temperature amplification

Climate models struggle to reproduce the amplitude of polar temperature change observed in palaeoclimatic archives. A synthesis of observational and model data was used to reconstruct atmospheric dust concentrations in the Holocene and Last Glacial Maximum. The impact of aerosols in polar areas is underestimated in simulations for dustier-than-modern conditions; the inclusion of the amplified response to aerosols at high latitudes would improve model predictions.

  • F. Lambert
  • J-S. Kug
  • R. J. Park
  • N. Mahowald
  • G. Winckler
  • A. Abe-Ouchi
  • R. O’ishi
  • T. Takemura
  • J-H. Lee
23 Dec 2012

Projections of declining surface-water availability for the southwestern United States

Under global warming, arid subtropical regions are expected to get drier and expand polewards. This study uses model simulations to examine changes in hydrological parameters for the southwestern United States. The predictions for 2021–2040 show declines in surface-water availability, resulting in reduced soil moisture and runoff.

  • Richard Seager
  • Mingfang Ting
  • Cuihua Li
  • Naomi Naik
  • Ben Cook
  • Jennifer Nakamura
  • Haibo Liu
21 Dec 2012

Atmospheric science: Wetting the Arctic

Streamflow from northern Eurasia into the Arctic Ocean has been increasing since the 1930s. Research shows that increased poleward moisture transport is responsible for additional water in the region.

  • Tara J. Troy
News and Views
21 Dec 2012

Atmospheric science: Stilling air

  • Bronwyn Wake
Research Highlights
21 Dec 2012

Paleoclimate: Reconstructing temperature

  • Bronwyn Wake
Research Highlights
16 Dec 2012

2020 emissions levels required to limit warming to below 2 °C

A relatively wide range of emissions in 2020 could keep open the option of limiting long-term temperature increase to below 2 °C; however, a shortfall in critical technologies would narrow that range or eliminate it altogether. Reduced emissions in 2020 would hedge against this uncertainty.

  • Joeri Rogelj
  • David L. McCollum
  • Brian C. O’Neill
  • Keywan Riahi
2 Dec 2012

The challenge to keep global warming below 2 °C

The latest carbon dioxide emissions continue to track the high end of emission scenarios, making it even less likely global warming will stay below 2 °C. A shift to a 2 °C pathway requires immediate significant and sustained global mitigation, with a probable reliance on net negative emissions in the longer term.

  • Glen P. Peters
  • Robbie M. Andrew
  • Tom Boden
  • Josep G. Canadell
  • Philippe Ciais
  • Corinne Le Quéré
  • Gregg Marland
  • Michael R. Raupach
  • Charlie Wilson
27 Nov 2012

Arctic contaminants and climate change

  • Tjarda J. Roberts
27 Nov 2012

Reply to 'Arctic contaminants and climate change'

  • Jianmin Ma
  • Hayley Hung
27 Nov 2012

Scientific community: Experts' knowledge assessed

  • Alastair Brown
Research Highlights
27 Nov 2012

Water resources: Water-use impacts

  • Alastair Brown
Research Highlights
28 Oct 2012

Changes in South Pacific rainfall bands in a warming climate

The South Pacific Convergence Zone is the largest rainband in the Southern Hemisphere, and its response to global warming is still undetermined. In this study a hierarchy of climate models show that the uncertainty in rainfall projections in the South Pacific Convergence Zone is the result of two competing mechanisms.

  • Matthew J. Widlansky
  • Axel Timmermann
  • Karl Stein
  • Shayne McGregor
  • Niklas Schneider
  • Matthew H. England
  • Matthieu Lengaigne
  • Wenju Cai
26 Oct 2012

Communication of the role of natural variability in future North American climate

As climate models improve, decision-makers' expectations for accurate climate predictions are growing. Natural climate variability, however, limits climate predictability and hampers the ability to guide adaptation in many regions such as North America. Scientists, policymakers and the public need to improve communication and avoid raising expectations for accurate regional predictions everywhere.

  • Clara Deser
  • Reto Knutti
  • Susan Solomon
  • Adam S. Phillips
26 Oct 2012

Atmospheric Science: Global implications for Africa

  • Alastair Brown
Research Highlights
21 Oct 2012

Increased greenhouse-gas intensity of rice production under future atmospheric conditions

Rice cultivation is one of the largest anthropogenic sources of the greenhouse gas methane. Now a meta-analysis shows that increased atmospheric CO2 (550–743 ppmV) and climate warming (+0.8 °C to +6 °C) can be expected to significantly increase the yield-scaled greenhouse-gas emissions of rice.

  • Kees Jan van Groenigen
  • Chris van Kessel
  • Bruce A. Hungate
21 Oct 2012

Management of trade-offs in geoengineering through optimal choice of non-uniform radiative forcing

This study looks at solar radiation management and how the benefits will vary between regions. Using a general circulation model, the trade-offs between optimizing latitudinal and seasonal distribution of reduced solar radiation are investigated.

  • Douglas G. MacMartin
  • David W. Keith
  • Ben Kravitz
  • Ken Caldeira
27 Sep 2012

Attribution: Non-solar warming

  • Bronwyn Wake
Research Highlights
9 Sep 2012

Geophysical limits to global wind power

Wind power is a near-zero-emissions source of energy. Although at present wind turbines are placed on the Earth’s surface, high-altitude winds offer greater possibilities for power generation. This study uses a climate model to estimate power generation for both surface and high-altitude winds, and finds that the latter provide much more power, but at a possible climate cost. However, there are unlikely to be substantial climate effects in meeting the present global demand.

  • Kate Marvel
  • Ben Kravitz
  • Ken Caldeira
2 Sep 2012

Robust projections of combined humidity and temperature extremes

This study investigates uncertainties in impact assessments when using climate projections. The uncertainties in health-related metrics combining temperature and humidity are much smaller than if the uncertainties in the two variables were independent. The finding reveals the potential for joint assessment of projection uncertainties in other variables used in impact studies.

  • E. M. Fischer
  • R. Knutti
12 Aug 2012

El Niño and health risks from landscape fire emissions in southeast Asia

Emissions from landscape fires affect both climate and air quality. This study uses satellite-derived fire estimates and atmospheric modelling to quantify the effects on health from fire emissions in southeast Asia from 1997 to 2006. Strong El Nino years are found to increase the incidence of fires, in addition to those caused by anthropogenic land use change, leading to an additional 200 days per year when the WHO atmospheric particle target is exceeded and increase adult mortality by 2%. Reducing regional deforestation and degradation, and thereby forest fires caused by land use change would therefore improve public health.

  • Miriam E. Marlier
  • Ruth S. DeFries
  • Apostolos Voulgarakis
  • Patrick L. Kinney
  • James T. Randerson
  • Drew T. Shindell
  • Yang Chen
  • Greg Faluvegi
12 Aug 2012

Stratospheric aerosol particles and solar-radiation management

This Perspective investigates the optimal properties of aerosol particles that might be considered for solar-radiation management techniques using stratospheric particle injections. The study shows that aerosol materials other than sulphuric acid are possibly better suited for potential solar-radiation management geoengineering activities aimed at mitigating global warming.

  • F. D. Pope
  • P. Braesicke
  • R. G. Grainger
  • M. Kalberer
  • I. M. Watson
  • P. J. Davidson
  • R. A. Cox
5 Aug 2012

Increasing drought under global warming in observations and models

Historical records show increased aridity over many land areas since 1950. This study looks at observations and model projections from 1923 to 2010, to test the ability of models to predict future drought conditions. Models are able to capture the greenhouse-gas forcing and El Niño–Southern Oscillation mode for historical periods, which inspires confidence in their projections of drought.

  • Aiguo Dai
29 Jul 2012

Enhanced poleward moisture transport and amplified northern high-latitude wetting trend

Increasing Eurasian Arctic river discharges and climate model projections show an increased wetting trend in northern high latitudes in coming years. Now a study finds that the increase in river discharge has accelerated in the past decade and that enhancement of poleward atmospheric moisture transport decisively contributes to this increase.

  • Xiangdong Zhang
  • Juanxiong He
  • Jing Zhang
  • Igor Polyakov
  • Rüdiger Gerdes
  • Jun Inoue
  • Peili Wu
27 Jul 2012

Measuring the carbon emissions of megacities

Carbon emissions from cities represent the single largest human contribution to climate change. Here we present a vision, strategy and roadmap for an international framework to assess directly the carbon emission trends of the world's megacities.

  • Riley M. Duren
  • Charles E. Miller
27 Jul 2012

Meteorology: Counting the coming storms

Tropical Atlantic storms impact the lives of many thousands of people each year. A study describes how different future anthropogenic emission pathways may change the frequency of these storms.

  • Ed Hawkins
  • Pier Luigi Vidale
News and Views
27 Jul 2012

Measurement challenges

Tools and methodologies for reducing uncertainties in climate change knowledge are now available, but it is disputed to what extent increased confidence in data will lead to increased action on carbon emissions.

  • Monica Contestabile
News Feature
27 Jul 2012

Atmospheric science: Aerosol-driven warming

  • Bronwyn Wake
Research Highlights
27 Jul 2012

Marine biogeochemistry: Algae to atmosphere

  • Bronwyn Wake
Research Highlights
15 Jul 2012

The hydrology of the humid tropics

Hydrological processes in the humid tropics differ from other regions in having greater energy inputs and faster rates of change. In this Review it is argued that understanding of the key hydrological interactions there remains limited, and a vision of future research designed to address these shortcomings is outlined.

  • Ellen Wohl
  • Ana Barros
  • Nathaniel Brunsell
  • Nick A. Chappell
  • Michael Coe
  • Thomas Giambelluca
  • Steven Goldsmith
  • Russell Harmon
  • Jan M. H. Hendrickx
  • James Juvik
  • Jeffrey McDonnell
  • Fred Ogden