Constraining uncertainties in climate models using climate change detection techniques

Chris E. Forest, Myles R. Allen, Peter H. Stone, Andrei P. Sokolov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Predictions of 21(st) century climate by different atmosphere-ocean general circulation models depend on the sensitivities of the models to external radiative forcing and on their rates of heat uptake by the deep ocean. This study constrains these properties by comparing radiosonde-based observations of temperature trends in the free troposphere and lower stratosphere with corresponding simulations of a fast, flexible climate model, using objective techniques based on optimal fingerprinting. Parameter choices corresponding either to low sensitivity, or to high sensitivity combined with slow oceanic heat uptake are rejected provided the variability estimates used from the HadCM2 control run are correct. Nevertheless, the range of acceptable values is significantly wider than that usually quoted. The IPCC's range of possible sensitivities, 1.5 to 4.5 K, corresponds at best to only an 80% confidence interval. Therefore, climate change projections based on current general circulation models do not span the range of possibilities consistent with the recent climate record.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)569-572
Number of pages4
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 15 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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