Greater committed warming after accounting for the pattern effect

Abstract

Our planet’s energy balance is sensitive to spatial inhomogeneities in sea surface temperature and sea ice changes, but this is typically ignored in climate projections. Here, we show the energy budget during recent decades can be closed by combining changes in effective radiative forcing, linear radiative damping and this pattern effect. The pattern effect is of comparable magnitude but opposite sign to Earth’s net energy imbalance in the 2000s, indicating its importance when predicting the future climate on the basis of observations. After the pattern effect is accounted for, the best-estimate value of committed global warming at present-day forcing rises from 1.31 K (0.99–2.33 K, 5th–95th percentile) to over 2 K, and committed warming in 2100 with constant long-lived forcing increases from 1.32 K (0.94–2.03 K) to over 1.5 K, although the magnitude is sensitive to sea surface temperature dataset. Further constraints on the pattern effect are needed to reduce climate projection uncertainty.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: Attribution of the net TOA fluxes during 1871–2010.
Fig. 2: Cumulative energy flux into the Earth system during 1961–2010.
Fig. 3: Impact of the pattern effect on equilibrium committed warming with constant forcing.
Fig. 4: Comparison of TOA fluxes reconstructed with CAM5.3 experiments driven by different SST datasets.

Data availability

All observational data and AMIP-piForcing experiment data in Table 1 are publicly available online, as described in Methods. In addition, results of the idealized experiments carried out in this study are available from the corresponding author upon request.

Code availability

The code of CESM1.2-CAM5.3 model used in this paper can be downloaded from http://www.cesm.ucar.edu/models/cesm1.2/. Codes for plotting figures are available from the corresponding author upon request.

References

  1. 1.

    Trenberth, K. E., Fasullo, J. T., von Schuckmann, K. & Cheng, L. Insights into Earth’s energy imbalance from multiple sources. J. Clim. 29, 7495–7505 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Boucher, O. et al. in Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis (eds Stocker, T. F. et al.) Ch. 7 (IPCC, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2013).

  3. 3.

    Stocker, T. F. et al. in Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis (eds Stocker, T. F. et al.) 31–116 (IPCC, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2013).

  4. 4.

    Andrews, T., Gregory, J. M. & Webb, M. J. The dependence of radiative forcing and feedback on evolving patterns of surface temperature change in climate models. J. Clim. 28, 1630–1648 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Zhou, C., Zelinka, M. D. & Klein, S. A. Impact of decadal cloud variations on the Earth’s energy budget. Nat. Geosci. 9, 871–874 (2016).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Gregory, J. M. & Andrews, T. Variation in climate sensitivity and feedback parameters during the historical period. Geophys. Res. Lett. 43, 3911–3920 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Xie, S.-P., Kosaka, Y. & Okumura, Y. M. Distinct energy budgets for anthropogenic and natural changes during global warming hiatus. Nat. Geosci. 9, 29–33 (2016).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Zhou, C., Zelinka, M. D. & Klein, S. A. Analyzing the dependence of global cloud feedback on the spatial pattern of sea surface temperature change with a Green’s function approach. J. Adv. Model. Earth Syst. 9, 2174–2189 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Armour, K. C. Energy budget constraints on climate sensitivity in light of inconstant climate feedbacks. Nat. Clim. Change 7, 331–335 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Ceppi, P. & Gregory, J. M. Relationship of tropospheric stability to climate sensitivity and Earth’s observed radiation budget. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 114, 13126–13131 (2017).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Andrews, T. et al. Accounting for changing temperature patterns increases historical estimates of climate sensitivity. Geophys. Res. Lett. 45, 8490–8499 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Silvers, L. G., Paynter, D. & Zhao, M. The diversity of cloud responses to twentieth century sea surface temperatures. Geophys. Res. Lett. 45, 391–400 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Dessler, A. E., Mauritsen, T. & Stevens, B. The influence of internal variability on Earth’s energy balance framework and implications for estimating climate sensitivity. Atmos. Chem. Phys. 18, 5147–5155 (2018).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Dessler, A. E. Potential problems measuring climate sensitivity from the historical record. J. Clim. 33, 2237–2248 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Dong, Y., Proistosescu, C., Armour, K. C. & Battisti, D. S. Attributing historical and future evolution of radiative feedbacks to regional warming patterns using a Green’s function approach: the preeminence of the western Pacific. J. Clim. 32, 5471–5491 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Fueglistaler, S. Observational evidence for two modes of coupling between sea surface temperatures, tropospheric temperature profile, and shortwave cloud radiative effect in the tropics. Geophys. Res. Lett. 46, 9890–9898 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Leob, N. G. et al. New generation of climate models track recent unprecedented changes in earth’s radiation budget observed by CERES. Geophys. Res. Lett. 47, e2019GL086705 (2020).

    Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Gregory, J. M. et al. A new method for diagnosing radiative forcing and climate sensitivity. Geophys. Res. Lett. 31, L03205 (2004).

    Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Olonscheck, D., Rugenstein, M. & Marotzke, J. Broad consistency between observed and simulated trends in sea surface temperature patterns. Geophys. Res. Lett. 47, e2019GL086773 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Prather, M. G. et al. in Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis (eds Stocker, T. F. et al.) 1395–1446 (IPCC, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2013).

  21. 21.

    Loeb, N. G. et al. Clouds and the Earth’s radiant energy system (CERES) energy balanced and filled (EBAF) top-of-atmosphere (TOA) edition-4.0 data product. J. Clim. 31, 895–918 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Allan, R. P. Decadal climate variability and the global energy balance. Past Glob. Changes 25, 20–24 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Andrews, T. & Forster, P. M. Energy budget constraints on historical radiative forcing. Nat. Clim. Change 10, 313–316 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Church, J. A. et al. Revisiting the Earth’s sea-level and energy budgets from 1961 to 2008. Geophys. Res. Lett. 38, L18601 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Levitus, S. et al. World ocean heat content and thermosteric sea level change (0–2000 m), 1955–2010. Geophys. Res. Lett. 39, L10603 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Mauritsen, T. & Pincus, R. Committed warming inferred from observations. Nat. Clim. Change 7, 652–655 (2017).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Forster, P. M. Inference of climate sensitivity from analysis of Earth’s energy budget. Annu. Rev. Earth Planet. Sci. 44, 85–106 (2016).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Sherwood, S. et al. An assessment of Earth’s climate sensitivity using multiple lines of evidence. Rev. Geophys. 58, e2019RG000678 (2020).

  29. 29.

    Smith, C. J. et al. Current fossil fuel infrastructure does not yet commit us to 1.5 °C warming. Nat. Commun. 10, 101 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Lewis, N. & Mauritsen, T. Negligible unforced historical pattern effect on climate feedback strength found in HadISST-based AMIP simulations. J. Clim. https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-19-0941.1 (2020).

  31. 31.

    Rayner, N. A. et al. Global analyses of sea surface temperature, sea ice, and night marine air temperature since the late nineteenth century. Geophys. Res. 108, 4407 (2003).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Hurrell, J. W., Hack, J. J., Shea, D., Caron, J. M. & Rosinski, J. A new sea surface temperature and sea ice boundary dataset for the Community Atmosphere Model. J. Clim. 21, 5145–5153 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    Neale, R. B. et al. Description of the NCAR community atmosphere model (CAM 5.0) NCAR/TN-486+STR (National Centre for Atmospheric Research, 2012).

  34. 34.

    Meinshausen, M., Raper, S. C. B. & Wigley, T. M. L. Emulating coupled atmosphere-ocean and carbon cycle models with a simpler model, MAGICC6 – Part 1: model description and calibration. Atmos. Chem. Phys. 11, 1417–1456 (2011).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    Rockström, J. et al. A roadmap for rapid decarbonization. Science 355, 1269–1271 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. 36.

    Flato, G. et al. in Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis (eds Stocker, T. F. et al.) Ch. 9 (IPCC, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2013).

  37. 37.

    Etminan, M., Myhre, G., Highwood, E. J. & Shine, K. P. Radiative forcing of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide: a significant revision of the methane radiative forcing. Geophys. Res. Lett. 43, 12614–12623 (2016).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  38. 38.

    Ciais, P. et al. in Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis (eds Stocker, T. F. et al.) Ch. 6 (IPCC, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2013).

  39. 39.

    Zhou, T. & Chen, X. Uncertainty in the 2°C warming threshold related to climate sensitivity and climate feedback. J. Meteorol. Res. 29, 884–895 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. 40.

    Andrews, T., Gregory, J. M., Webb, M. J. & Taylor, K. E. Forcing, feedbacks and climate sensitivity in CMIP5 coupled atmosphere–ocean climate models. Geophys. Res. Lett. 39, L09712 (2012).

    Google Scholar 

  41. 41.

    Eyring, V. et al. Overview of the coupled model intercomparison project phase 6 (CMIP6) experimental design and organization. Geosci. Model Dev. 9, 1937–1958 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. 42.

    Loeb, N. G. et al. Observed changes in top-of-the-atmosphere radiation and upper-ocean heating consistent within uncertainty. Nat. Geosci. 5, 110–113 (2012).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  43. 43.

    Wielicki, B. A. et al. Evidence for large decadal variability in the tropical mean radiative energy budget. Science 295, 841–844 (2002).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  44. 44.

    Otto, A. et al. Energy budget constraints on climate response. Nat. Geosci. 6, 415–416 (2013).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  45. 45.

    Jiménez-de-la-Cuesta, D. & Mauritsen, T. Emergent constraints on Earth’s transient and equilibrium response to doubled CO2 from post-1970s global warming. Nat. Geosci. 12, 902–905 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

C.Z. was supported by NSFC grant no. 41875095. A.E.D. was supported by NSF grant nos. AGS-1661861 and AGS-1841308, both to Texas A&M University. M.D.Z. worked under the auspices of the US Department of Energy (DOE), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory under contract no. DE-AC52-07NA27344 and was supported by the Regional and Global Model Analysis Program of the Office of Science at the DOE. M.W. was supported by Minister of Science and Technology of China grant nos. 2017YFA0604002 and 2016YFC0200503, and NSFC grant nos. 91744208, 41575073 and 41621005. This research is also supported by the Collaborative Innovation Center of Climate Change, Jiangsu Province. The numerical simulations in this paper were done on the computing facilities in the High Performance Computing Center of Nanjing University. Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to C.Z.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

C.Z. performed the analysis. The paper was discussed and written by all authors.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Chen Zhou.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Peer review information Nature Climate Change thanks Jonah Bloch-Johnson, Diego Jiménez-de-la-Cuesta and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Zhou, C., Zelinka, M.D., Dessler, A.E. et al. Greater committed warming after accounting for the pattern effect. Nat. Clim. Chang. (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-020-00955-x

Download citation

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing