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

TS.4.2 Attribution of Spatial and Temporal Changes in Temperature

The observed pattern of tropospheric warming and stratospheric cooling is very likely due to the influence of anthropogenic forcing, particularly that due to greenhouse gas increases and stratospheric ozone depletion. New analyses since the TAR show that this pattern corresponds to an increase in the height of the tropopause that is likely due largely to greenhouse gas and stratospheric ozone changes. Significant uncertainty remains in the estimation of tropospheric temperature trends, particularly from the radiosonde record. {3.2, 3.4, 9.4}

It is likely that there has been a substantial anthropogenic contribution to surface temperature increases averaged over every continent except Antarctica since the middle of the 20th century. Antarctica has insufficient observational coverage to make an assessment. Anthropogenic warming has also been identified in some sub-continental land areas. The ability of coupled climate models to simulate the temperature evolution on each of six continents provides stronger evidence of human influence on the global climate than was available in the TAR. No coupled global climate model that has used natural forcing only has reproduced the observed global mean warming trend, or the continental mean warming trends in individual continents (except Antarctica) over the second half of the 20th century. {9.4}

Difficulties remain in attributing temperature changes at smaller than continental scales and over time scales of less than 50 years. Attribution results at these scales have, with limited exceptions, not been established. Averaging over smaller regions reduces the natural variability less than does averaging over large regions, making it more difficult to distinguish between changes expected from external forcing and variability. In addition, temperature changes associated with some modes of variability are poorly simulated by models in some regions and seasons. Furthermore, the small-scale details of external forcing and the response simulated by models are less credible than large-scale features. {8.3, 9.4}

Surface temperature extremes have likely been affected by anthropogenic forcing. Many indicators of extremes, including the annual numbers and most extreme values of warm and cold days and nights, as well as numbers of frost days, show changes that are consistent with warming. Anthropogenic influence has been detected in some of these indices, and there is evidence that anthropogenic forcing may have substantially increased the risk of extremely warm summer conditions regionally, such as the 2003 European heat wave. {9.4}