CICERO - Center for International Climate Research

Energy Budget Constraints on the Time History of Aerosol Forcing and Climate Sensitivity

Christopher J. Smith, Glen R. Harris, Matthew D. Palmer, Nicolas Bellouin, William J. Collins, Gunnar Myhre, M Schulz, Jean-Christophe Golaz, Mark Ringer, Trude Storelvmo, Piers M. Forster

An observationally constrained time series of historical aerosol effective radiative forcing (ERF) from 1750 to 2019 is developed in this study. We find that the time history of aerosol ERFs diagnosed in CMIP6 models exhibits considerable variation and explore how the time history of aerosol forcing influences the probability distributions of present-day aerosol forcing and emergent metrics such as climate sensitivity. Using a simple energy balance model, trained on CMIP6 climate models and constrained by observed near-surface warming and ocean heat uptake, we derive estimates for the historical aerosol forcing. We find 2005–2014 mean aerosol ERF to be −1.1 (−1.8 to −0.5) W m−2 relative to 1750. Assuming recently published historical emissions from fossil fuel and industrial sectors and biomass burning emissions from SSP2-4.5, aerosol ERF in 2019 is −0.9 (−1.5 to −0.4) W m−2. There is a modest recovery in aerosol forcing (+0.025 W m−2 decade−1) between 1980 and 2014. This analysis also gives a 5%–95% range of equilibrium climate sensitivity of 1.8°C –5.1°C (best estimate 3.1°C) with a transient climate response of 1.2°C –2.6°C (best estimate 1.8°C).

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