Volcanic and solar forcing of climate change during the preindustrial era

Drew T. Shindell, Gavin A. Schmidt, Ron L. Miller, Michael E. Mann

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225 Scopus citations


The climate response to variability in volcanic aerosols and solar irradiance, the primary forcings during the preindustrial era, is examined in a stratosphere-resolving general circulation model. The best agreement with historical and proxy data is obtained using both forcings, each of which has a significant effect on global mean temperatures. However, their regional climate impacts in the Northern Hemisphere are quite different. While the short-term continental winter warming response to volcanism is well known, it is shown that due to opposing dynamical and radiative effects, the long-term (decadal mean) regional response is not significant compared to unforced variability for either the winter or the annual average. In contrast, the long-term regional response to solar forcing greatly exceeds unforced variability for both time averages, as the dynamical and radiative effects reinforce one another, and produces climate anomalies similar to those seen during the Little Ice Age. Thus, long-term regional changes during the preindustrial appear to have been dominated by solar forcing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4094-4107
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 15 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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