IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group I: The Physical Science Basis Differential Temperature Trends

Subtracting temperature trends at the surface from those in the free atmosphere removes much of the common variability between these layers and tests whether the model-predicted trends in tropospheric lapse rate are consistent with those observed by radiosondes and satellites (Karl et al., 2006). Since 1979, globally averaged modelled trends in tropospheric lapse rates are consistent with those observed. However, this is not the case in the tropics, where most models have more warming aloft than at the surface while most observational estimates show more warming at the surface than in the troposphere (Karl et al., 2006). Karl et al. (2006) carried out a systematic review of this issue. There is greater consistency between simulated and observed differential warming in the tropics in some satellite measurements of tropospheric temperature change, particularly when the effect of the cooling stratosphere on tropospheric retrievals is taken into account (Karl et al., 2006). External forcing other than greenhouse gas changes can also help to reconcile some of the differential warming, since both volcanic eruptions and stratospheric ozone depletion are expected to have cooled the troposphere more than the surface over the last several decades (Santer et al., 2000, 2001; IPCC, 2001; Free and Angell, 2002; Karl et al., 2006). There are, however, uncertainties in quantifying the differential cooling caused by these forcings, both in models and observations, arising from uncertainties in the forcings and model response to the forcings. Differential effects of natural modes of variability, such as ENSO and the NAM, on observed surface and tropospheric temperatures, which arise from differences in the amplitudes and spatial expression of these modes at the surface and in the troposphere, make only minor contributions to the overall differences in observed surface and tropospheric warming rates (Santer et al., 2001; Hegerl and Wallace, 2002; Karl et al., 2006).

A systematic intercomparison between radiosonde-based (Radiosonde Atmospheric Temperature Products for Assessing Climate (RATPAC); Free et al., 2005, and Hadley Centre Atmospheric Temperature (HadAT), Thorne et al., 2005) and satellite-based (RSS, UAH) observational estimates of tropical lapse rate trends with those simulated by 19 MMD models shows that on monthly and annual time scales, variations in temperature at the surface are amplified aloft in both models and observations by consistent amounts (Santer et al., 2005; Karl et al., 2006). It is only on longer time scales that disagreement between modelled and observed lapse rates arises (Hegerl and Wallace, 2002), that is, on the time scales over which discrepancies would arise from inhomogeneities in the observational record. Only one observational data set (RSS) was found to be consistent with the models on both short and long time scales. While Vinnikov et al. (2006) have not produced a lower-tropospheric retrieval, their estimate of the T2 temperature trend (Figure 3.18) is consistent with model simulations (Karl et al., 2006). One possibility is that amplification effects are controlled by different physical mechanisms on short and long time scales, although a more probable explanation is that some observational records are contaminated by errors that affect their long-term trends (Section 3.4.1; Karl et al., 2006).