Research ArticleCLIMATOLOGY

Causes of irregularities in trends of global mean surface temperature since the late 19th century

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Science Advances  06 Jun 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 6, eaao5297
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aao5297

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The time series of monthly global mean surface temperature (GST) since 1891 is successfully reconstructed from known natural and anthropogenic forcing factors, including internal climate variability, using a multiple regression technique. Comparisons are made with the performance of 40 CMIP5 models in predicting GST. The relative contributions of the various forcing factors to GST changes vary in time, but most of the warming since 1891 is found to be attributable to the net influence of increasing greenhouse gases and anthropogenic aerosols. Separate statistically independent analyses are also carried out for three periods of GST slowdown (1896–1910, 1941–1975, and 1998–2013 and subperiods); two periods of strong warming (1911–1940 and 1976–1997) are also analyzed. A reduction in total incident solar radiation forcing played a significant cooling role over 2001–2010. The only serious disagreements between the reconstructions and observations occur during the Second World War, especially in the period 1944–1945, when observed near-worldwide sea surface temperatures (SSTs) may be significantly warm-biased. In contrast, reconstructions of near-worldwide SSTs were rather warmer than those observed between about 1907 and 1910. However, the generally high reconstruction accuracy shows that known external and internal forcing factors explain all the main variations in GST between 1891 and 2015, allowing for our current understanding of their uncertainties. Accordingly, no important additional factors are needed to explain the two main warming and three main slowdown periods during this epoch.

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