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14 September 2009

How will Earth's surface temperature change in future decades?

How will Earth's surface temperature change in future decades?

Judith L. Lean
Space Science Division, Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, D. C., USA

David H. Rind
NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, New York, USA

Reliable forecasts of climate change in the immediate future are difficult, especially on regional scales, where natural climate variations may amplify or mitigate anthropogenic warming in ways that numerical models capture poorly. By decomposing recent observed surface temperatures into components associated with ENSO, volcanic and solar activity, and anthropogenic influences, we anticipate global and regional changes in the next two decades. From 2009 to 2014, projected rises in anthropogenic influences and solar irradiance will increase global surface temperature 0.15 ± 0.03°C, at a rate 50% greater than predicted by IPCC. But as a result of declining solar activity in the subsequent five years, average temperature in 2019 is only 0.03 ± 0.01°C warmer than in 2014. This lack of overall warming is analogous to the period from 2002 to 2008 when decreasing solar irradiance also countered much of the anthropogenic warming. We further illustrate how a major volcanic eruption and a super ENSO would modify our global and regional temperature projections.

Received 29 April 2009; accepted 9 July 2009; published 15 August 2009.

Citation: Lean, J. L., and D. H. Rind (2009), How will Earth's surface temperature change in future decades?, Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L15708, doi:10.1029/2009GL038932.

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