Projections of future climate change


Coupled ocean-atmosphere GCMs use transient climate simulations to project/predict future temperature changes under various scenarios. These can be idealised scenarios (most commonly, CO2 increasing at 1%/yr) or more realistic (usually the "IS92a" or more recently the SRES scenarios). Which scenarios should be considered most realistic is currently uncertain, as the projections of future CO2 (and sulphate) emission are themselves uncertain.

The 2001 IPCC Third Assessment Report figure 9.3 shows the global mean response of 19 different coupled models to an idealised experiment in which CO2 is increased at 1% per year [14]. Figure 9.5 shows the response of a smaller number of models to more realistic forcing. For the 7 climate models shown there, the temperature change to 2100 varies from 2 to 4.5 °C with a median of about 3 °C.

Future scenarios do not include unknowable events - for example, volcanic eruptions or changes in solar forcing. These effects are believed to be small in comparison to GHG forcing in the long term, but large volcanic eruptions, for example, are known to exert a temporary cooling effect.

Human emissions of GHGs are an external input to the models, although it would be possible to couple in an economic model to provide these as well. Atmospheric GHG levels are usually supplied as an input, though it is possible to include a carbon cycle model including land vegetation and oceanic processes to calculate GHG levels.

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