Detecting Climate Change

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  • 1 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Earth Satellite Service, Earth Sciences Laboratory, Washington, DC 20233
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Abstract

The likelihood ratio of the data for a hypothesis of some change, relative to the hypothesis of no change, is a suitable statistical measure for the detection of climate change. Likelihood ratios calculated on the basis of Angell and Korshover's (1977) global mean temperature, updated through 1980, do not show convincing evidence of recent climate change. It is possible to calculate probabilities of obtaining future values of likelihood ratios, depending on the postulated future climate change. A modest but significant climate change, such as that expected to occur from an increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide, is likely to be detected from global mean surface temperatures within ten years. The joint behavior of the troposphere and stratosphere is more likely to discriminate between climate change and no change than are surface temperatures. In this case, a climate change that can be attributed to carbon dioxide increase should be detectable by 1986.

Abstract

The likelihood ratio of the data for a hypothesis of some change, relative to the hypothesis of no change, is a suitable statistical measure for the detection of climate change. Likelihood ratios calculated on the basis of Angell and Korshover's (1977) global mean temperature, updated through 1980, do not show convincing evidence of recent climate change. It is possible to calculate probabilities of obtaining future values of likelihood ratios, depending on the postulated future climate change. A modest but significant climate change, such as that expected to occur from an increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide, is likely to be detected from global mean surface temperatures within ten years. The joint behavior of the troposphere and stratosphere is more likely to discriminate between climate change and no change than are surface temperatures. In this case, a climate change that can be attributed to carbon dioxide increase should be detectable by 1986.

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