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

TS.3 Observations of Changes in Climate

This assessment evaluates changes in the Earth’s climate system, considering not only the atmosphere, but also the ocean and the cryosphere, as well as phenomena such as atmospheric circulation changes, in order to increase understanding of trends, variability and processes of climate change at global and regional scales. Observational records employing direct methods are of variable length as described below, with global temperature estimates now beginning as early as 1850. Observations of extremes of weather and climate are discussed, and observed changes in extremes are described. The consistency of observed changes among different climate variables that allows an increasingly comprehensive picture to be drawn is also described. Finally, palaeoclimatic information that generally employs indirect proxies to infer information about climate change over longer time scales (up to millions of years) is also assessed.

TS.3.1 Atmospheric Changes: Instrumental Record

This assessment includes analysis of global and hemispheric means, changes over land and ocean and distributions of trends in latitude, longitude and altitude. Since the TAR, improvements in observations and their calibration, more detailed analysis of methods and extended time series allow more in-depth analyses of changes including atmospheric temperature, precipitation, humidity, wind and circulation. Extremes of climate are a key expression of climate variability, and this assessment includes new data that permit improved insights into the changes in many types of extreme events including heat waves, droughts, heavy precipitation and tropical cyclones (including hurricanes and typhoons). {3.23.4, 3.8}

Furthermore, advances have occurred since the TAR in understanding how a number of seasonal and long-term anomalies can be described by patterns of climate variability. These patterns arise from internal interactions and from the differential effects on the atmosphere of land and ocean, mountains and large changes in heating. Their response is often felt in regions far removed from their physical source through atmospheric teleconnections associated with large-scale waves in the atmosphere. Understanding temperature and precipitation anomalies associated with the dominant patterns of climate variability is essential to understanding many regional climate anomalies and why these may differ from those at the global scale. Changes in storm tracks, the jet streams, regions of preferred blocking anticyclones and changes in monsoons can also occur in conjunction with these preferred patterns of variability. {3.53.7}