Climate Science

Thermal Blanket

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Science  25 Jul 2003:
Vol. 301, Issue 5632, pp. 438
DOI: 10.1126/science.301.5632.438d

One of the crucial factors limiting the predictability of global climate and surface temperature changes is a large uncertainty about the precise effects of aerosols on Earth's radiation balance. All large-scale global climate models include the direct radiative effects of aerosols at higher wavelengths, but few consider aerosol radiative properties in the infrared (IR) region. Vogelmann et al. report interferometric measurements of clear-sky IR spectra, performed during a cruise across the western Pacific Ocean. These data reveal large aerosol forcings of up to 10 W/m2, values that are large compared to the estimated 1 to 2 W/m2 forcing produced by greenhouse gas accumulation since the beginning of the industrial revolution. The response of climate to radiative perturbations can vary with altitude, and the aerosol IR effects are so large that the thermal radiative properties of aerosols will be important to include in climate models. — HJS

Geophys. Res. Lett. 10.1029/2002GL016829 (2003).

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