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Benjamin D. Santer, Stephen Po-Chedley, Nicole Feldl, John C. Fyfe, Qiang Fu, Susan Solomon, Mark England, Keith B. Rodgers, Malte F. Stuecker, Carl Mears, Cheng-Zhi Zou, Céline J. W. Bonfils, Giuliana Pallotta, Mark D. Zelinka, Nan Rosenbloom, and Jim Edwards


Previous work identified an anthropogenic fingerprint pattern in T AC(x, t), the amplitude of the seasonal cycle of mid- to upper-tropospheric temperature (TMT), but did not explicitly consider whether fingerprint identification in satellite T AC(x, t) data could have been influenced by real-world multidecadal internal variability (MIV). We address this question here using large ensembles (LEs) performed with five climate models. LEs provide many different sequences of internal variability noise superimposed on an underlying forced signal. Despite differences in historical external forcings, climate sensitivity, and MIV properties of the five models, their T AC(x, t) fingerprints are similar and statistically identifiable in 239 of the 240 LE realizations of historical climate change. Comparing simulated and observed variability spectra reveals that consistent fingerprint identification is unlikely to be biased by model underestimates of observed MIV. Even in the presence of large (factor of 3–4) intermodel and inter-realization differences in the amplitude of MIV, the anthropogenic fingerprints of seasonal cycle changes are robustly identifiable in models and satellite data. This is primarily due to the fact that the distinctive, global-scale fingerprint patterns are spatially dissimilar to the smaller-scale patterns of internal T AC(x, t) variability associated with the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation and El Niño–Southern Oscillation. The robustness of the seasonal cycle detection and attribution results shown here, taken together with the evidence from idealized aquaplanet simulations, suggest that basic physical processes are dictating a common pattern of forced T AC(x, t) changes in observations and in the five LEs. The key processes involved include GHG-induced expansion of the tropics, lapse-rate changes, land surface drying, and sea ice decrease.

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