Nature can selectively buffer human-caused global warming

Can naturally occurring processes selectively buffer the full brunt of global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions resulting from human activities?

Yes, find researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Johns Hopkins University in the US and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

As the globe warms, ocean temperatures rise, leading to increased water vapor escaping into the atmosphere. Water vapor is the most important , and its impact on climate is amplified in the stratosphere.

In a detailed study, the researchers from the three institutions examined the causes of changes in the temperatures and water vapor in the tropical tropopause layer (TTL). The TTL is a critical region of our atmosphere with characteristics of both the troposphere below and the stratosphere above.

The TTL can have significant influences on both atmospheric chemistry and climate, as its temperature determines how much water vapor can enter the stratosphere. Therefore, understanding any changes in the temperature of the TTL and what might be causing them is an important scientific question of significant societal relevance, say the researchers.

The Israeli and US scientists used measurements from satellite observations and output from chemistry-climate models to understand recent temperature trends in the TTL. Temperature measurements show where significant changes have taken place since 1979.

The satellite observations have shown that of the tropical Indian Ocean and tropical Western Pacific Ocean – with resulting increased precipitation and water vapor there—causes the opposite effect of cooling in the TTL region above the warming sea surface. Once the TTL cools, less water vapor is present in the TTL and also above in the stratosphere,

Since water vapor is a very strong greenhouse gas, this effect leads to a negative feedback on climate change. That is, the increase in due to enhanced evaporation from the warming oceans is confined to the near- surface area, while the stratosphere becomes drier. Hence, this effect may actually slightly weaken the more dire forecasted aspects of an increasing warming of our , the scientists say.

The researchers are Dr. Chaim Garfinkel of the Fredy and Nadine Herrmann Institute of Earth Sciences at the Hebrew University and formerly of Johns Hopkins University, Dr. D. W. Waugh and Dr. L. Wang of Johns Hopkins, and Dr. L. D. Oman and Dr. M. M. Hurwitz of the Goddard Space Flight Center. Their findings have been published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, and the research was also highlighted in Nature Climate Change.

Explore further

Water in stratosphere plays key role in Earth's climate

More information: Garfinkel, C. I., D. W. Waugh, L. D. Oman, L. Wang, and M. M. Hurwitz (2013), Temperature trends in the tropical upper troposphere and lower stratosphere: Connections with sea surface temperatures and implications for water vapor and ozone, J. Geophys. Res. Atmos., 118, 9658–9672, DOI: 10.1002/jgrd.50772.
Citation: Nature can selectively buffer human-caused global warming (2014, February 3) retrieved 17 September 2019 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments

Feb 03, 2014
Two primary drivers of average global temperatures explain the reported up and down measurements since before 1900 with 90% accuracy and provide credible estimates back to the low temperatures of the Little Ice Age (1610).

CO2 change is NOT one of the drivers.

The drivers are given at

which includes eye opening graphs and a plethora of links and sub-links to the credible data sources that were used.

Feb 03, 2014
It is nice to find research in the climate field with a little more depth. Nice change to the caveman:
-man produce CO2
-CO2 absorb heat
-CO2 bad. Man bad.
-Earth doomed. Go bye bye.

An increase in atmospheric CO2 results in cascading events. A natural molecule present since the beginning of Earth and detrimental to our very existence is not something new for our planet to contend with. Natural processes are in place which hold the balance required for our very existence. If the Earth didn't have this capability we wouldn't be around today to talk about it. When the atmospheric CO2 reaches a high enough level weather events begin. On the macro level this can be seen as fluid dynamics and energy discharge (lightning), while on the micro level chemistry (such as carbonic acid production) is present. This excess heat energy (our temp differential) is used to drive storms. What happens to temperature on a summer day when a storm comes through? It drops.

Feb 03, 2014

fkn masturbating monkeys go
stroke stroke spurt spurt splat splat

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more