Uncertainties in Climate Projections Caused by Aerosol Effects: Do we know enough now to move ahead with control of greenhouse gas emissions?

Time: May 17, 2010
Venue: G-salen
Speaker: Robert J. Charlson
professor of Atmospheric Sciences and Professor of Chemistry. University of Washington, Seattle, USA
  Global climate forcing aerosols (i.e. the change in Earth´s energy balance imposed by anthropogenic particles in the atmosphere) is estimated to range from about -0.5 to -1-5 W/m2, which remains as the dominant factor in the uncertainty in total climate forcing (the sum of greenhouse gas plus all other forcings). In turn, this uncertainty in total forcing precludes accurate quantification of climate sensitivity from the temperature record over the 20th century; in fact, it has allowed various climate models to fit the T record despite large differences in their climate sensitivity.
This lecture traces the early history of aerosol/climate research, in particular the first estimates of aerosol forcing made in the early 1990´s, which were largely based on observations of atmospheric aerosol properties. Subsequent efforts have been dominated by models of increasing complexity while attempts at improving the global observational basis via instrumented satellites are underway. Predictably, the total forcing will become less uncertain as the greenhouse gases continue to accumulate in the atmosphere, such that the need for control of those gases will become increasingly urgent, even if the present uncertainty of the aerosol forcing is necessary if we are able to understand the causes of the observed warming over the 20th century and to refine the projections of climate change in the future.


The Bert Bolin Lecture on Climate Research is given annually in May to commemorate professor Bert Bolin and his pioneering work for climate research at Stockholm University and internationally. The speaker is selected among prominent scientists within climate research by the Faculty of Science.


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