IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group I: The Physical Science Basis Comparison of Modelled Forcings to Estimates in Chapter 2

The forcings used to generate climate projections for the standard SRES scenarios are not necessarily uniform across the multi-model ensemble. Differences among models may be caused by different projections for radiatively active species (see Section and by differences in the formulation of radiative transfer (see Section The AOGCMs in the ensemble include many species that are not specified or constrained by the SRES scenarios, including ozone, tropospheric non-sulphate aerosols, and stratospheric volcanic aerosols. Other types of forcing that vary across the ensemble include solar variability, the indirect effects of aerosols on clouds and the effects of land use change on land surface albedo and other land surface properties (Table 10.1). While the time series of LLGHGs for the future scenarios are mostly identical across the ensemble, the concentrations of these gases in the 19th and early 20th centuries were left to the discretion of individual modelling groups. The differences in radiatively active species and the formulation of radiative transfer affect both the 19th- and 20th-century simulations and the scenario integrations initiated from these historical simulations. The resulting differences in the forcing complicate the separation of forcing and response across the multi-model ensemble. These differences can be quantified by comparing the range of shortwave and longwave forcings across the multi-model ensemble against standard estimates of radiative forcing over the historical record. Shortwave and longwave forcing refer to modifications of the solar and infrared atmospheric radiation fluxes, respectively, that are caused by external changes to the climate system (Section 2.2).

Table 10.1. Radiative forcing agents in the multi-model global climate projections. See Table 8.1 for descriptions of the models. Entries mean Y: forcing agent is included; C: forcing agent varies with time during the 20th Century Climate in Coupled Models (20C3M) simulations and is set to constant or annually cyclic distribution for scenario integrations; E: forcing agent represented using equivalent CO2; and n.a.: forcing agent is not specified in either the 20th-century or scenario integrations. Numeric codes indicate that the forcing agent is included using data described at 1: http://www.cnrm.meteo.fr/ensembles/public/results/results.html; 2: Boucher and Pham (2002); 3: Yukimoto et al. (2006); 4: Meehl, et al., 2006b; 5: http://aom.giss.nasa.gov/IN/GHGA1B.LP; and 6: http://sres.ciesin.org/final_data.html.

Model Forcing Agents 
 Greenhouse Gases Aerosols Other 
 CO2 CH4 N2O Stratospheric Ozone Tropospheric Ozone CFCs SO4 Urban Black carbon Organic carbon Nitrate 1st Indirect 2nd Indirect Dust Volcanic Sea Salt Land Use Solar 
BCC-CM1 n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. 
BCCR-BCM2.0 n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. 
CCSM3 n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. 
CGCM3.1(T47) n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. 
CGCM3.1(T63) n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. 
CNRM-CM3 n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. 
CSIRO-MK3.0 n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. 
ECHAM5/MPI-OM n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. 
ECHO-G n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. 
FGOALS-g1.0 n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. 
GFDL-CM2.0 n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. 
GFDL-CM2.1 n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. 
GISS-AOM n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. 
GISS-EH n.a. n.a. 
GISS-ER n.a. n.a. 
INM-CM3.0 n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. 
IPSL-CM4 n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. 
MIROC3.2(H) n.a. n.a. 
MIROC3.2(M) n.a. n.a. 
MRI-CGCM2.3.2 n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. 
PCM n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. 
UKMO-HadCM3 n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. 
UKMO-HadGEM1 n.a. n.a. n.a. 

The longwave radiative forcings for the SRES A1B scenario from climate model simulations are compared against estimates using the TAR formulae (see Chapter 2) in Figure 10.2a. The graph shows the longwave forcings from the TAR and 20 AOGCMs in the multi-model ensemble from 2000 to 2100. The forcings from the models are diagnosed from changes in top-of-atmosphere fluxes and the forcing for doubled atmospheric CO2 (Forster and Taylor, 2006). The TAR and median model estimates of the longwave forcing are in very good agreement over the 21st century, with differences ranging from –0.37 to +0.06 W m–2. For the year 2000, the global mean values from the TAR and median model differ by only –0.13 W m–2. However, the 5th to 95th percentile range of the models for the period 2080 to 2099 is approximately 3.1 W m–2, or approximately 47% of the median longwave forcing for that time period.

The corresponding time series of shortwave forcings for the SRES A1B scenario are plotted in Figure 10.2b. It is evident that the relative differences among the models and between the models and the TAR estimates are larger for the shortwave band. The TAR value is larger than the median model forcing by 0.2 to 0.3 W m–2 for individual 20-year segments of the integrations. For the year 2000, the TAR estimate is larger by 0.42 W m–2. In addition, the range of modelled forcings is sufficiently large that it includes positive and negative values for every 20-year period. For the year 2100, the shortwave forcing from individual AOGCMs ranges from approximately –1.7 W m–2 to +0.4 W m–2 (5th to 95th percentile). The reasons for this large range include the variety of the aerosol treatments and parametrizations for the indirect effects of aerosols in the multi-model ensemble.

Figure 10.2

Figure 10.2. Radiative forcings for the period 2000 to 2100 for the SRES A1B scenario diagnosed from AOGCMs and from the TAR (IPCC, 2001) forcing formulas (Forster and Taylor, 2006). (a) Longwave forcing; (b) shortwave forcing. The AOGCM results are plotted with box-and-whisker diagrams representing percentiles of forcings computed from 20 models in the AR4 multi-model ensemble. The central line within each box represents the median value of the model ensemble. The top and bottom of each box shows the 75th and 25th percentiles, and the top and bottom of each whisker displays the 95th and 5th percentile values in the ensemble, respectively. The models included are CCSM3, CGCM3.1 (T47 and T63), CNRM-CM3, CSIRO-MK3, ECHAM5/MPI-OM, ECHO-G, FGOALS-g1.0, GFDL-CM2.0, GFDL-CM2.1, GISS-EH, GISS-ER, INM-CM3.0, IPSL-CM4, MIROC3.2 (medium and high resolution), MRI-CGCM2.3.2, PCM1, UKMO-HadCM3 and UKMO-HadGEM1 (see Table 8.1 for model details).

Since the large range in both longwave and shortwave forcings may be caused by a variety of factors, it is useful to determine the range caused just by differences in model formulation for a given (identical) change in radiatively active species. A standard metric is the global mean, annually averaged all-sky forcing at the tropopause for doubled atmospheric CO2. Estimates of this forcing for 15 of the models in the ensemble are given in Table 10.2. The shortwave forcing is caused by absorption in the near-infrared bands of CO2. The range in the longwave forcing at 200 mb is 0.84 W m–2, and the coefficient of variation, or ratio of the standard deviation to mean forcing, is 0.09. These results suggest that up to 35% of the range in longwave forcing in the ensemble for the period 2080 to 2099 is due to the spread in forcing estimates for the specified increase in CO2. The findings also imply that it is not appropriate to use a single best value of the forcing from doubled atmospheric CO2 to relate forcing and response (e.g., climate sensitivity) across a multi-model ensemble. The relationships for a given model should be derived using the radiative forcing produced by the radiative parametrizations in that model. Although the shortwave forcing has a coefficient of variation close to one, the range across the ensemble explains less than 17% of the range in shortwave forcing at the end of the 21st-century simulations. This suggests that species and forcing agents other than CO2 cause the large variation among modelled shortwave forcings.

Table 10.2. All-sky radiative forcing for doubled atmospheric CO2. See Table 8.1 for model details.

ModelSource  Longwave (W m–2)  Shortwave (W m–2) 
CGCM 3.1 (T47/T63)a  3.39  –0.07 
CSIRO-MK3.0b  3.42  0.05 
GISS-EH/ERa  4.21  –0.15 
GFDL-CM2.0/2.1b  3.62  –0.12 
IPSL-CM4c  3.50  –0.02 
MIROC 3.2-hiresd  3.06  0.08 
MIROC 3.2-medresd  2.99  0.10 
ECHAM5/MPI-OMa  3.98  0.03 
MRI-CGCM2.3.2b  3.75  –0.28 
CCSM3a  4.23  –0.28 
UKMO-HadCM3a  4.03  –0.22 
UKMO-HadGEM1a  4.02  –0.24 
Mean ± standard deviatione  3.80 ± 0.33  –0.13 ± 0.11 


a Forster and Taylor (2006) based upon forcing data from PCMDI for 200 hPa. Longwave forcing accounts for stratospheric adjustment; shortwave forcing does not.

b Forcings derived by individual modelling groups using the method of Gregory et al. (2004b).

c Based upon forcing data from PCMDI for 200 hPa. Longwave and shortwave forcing account for stratospheric adjustment.

d Forcings at diagnosed tropopause.

e Mean and standard deviation are calculated just using forcings at 200 hPa, with each model and model version counted once.