Inferred Net Aerosol Forcing Based on Historical Climate Changes: a Review

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Purpose of Review: This review summarizes the inverse methods used to estimate the net aerosol forcing inferred from the historical climate change records for the Earth. Recent Findings: The available methods are similar in design while differing in their assumptions. Primary differences are (a) the complexity of the earth system model used for forward simulations of the historical period (~ 1850 to the present), (b) the uncertainty sampling methodology, and (c) the representation of internal climate variability in the statistical approach. All methods, in some fashion, include the net aerosol radiative forcing as a residual forcing that is scaled to find simulations that match the observed records of surface air and deep ocean temperatures. Inverse methods also require sampling the model response uncertainty in the equilibrium climate sensitivity and the transient climate response (i.e., the delay due to mixing heat into the deep ocean), and therefore, a joint probability distribution is estimated that includes uncertainty across multiple components. Summary: The resulting estimates of the net aerosol forcing and its uncertainty are, by construction, necessarily linked to the earth system model, its response characteristics, and the estimates of the internal chaotic variability. Summary results indicate that the net aerosol forcing during the late twentieth century was − 0.77 Wm−2 with a 5–95% range of − 1.15 to − 0.31 Wm−2 based on 19 results from simple- to full-complexity climate system models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11-22
Number of pages12
JournalCurrent Climate Change Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Atmospheric Science


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