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Science. 1994 Jan 21;263(5145):341-7.

Detecting climatic change signals: are there any "fingerprints"?


Projected changes in the Earth's climate can be driven from a combined set of forcing factors consisting of regionally heterogeneous anthropogenic and natural aerosols and land use changes, as well as global-scale influences from solar variability and transient increases in human-produced greenhouse gases. Thus, validation of climate model projections that are driven only by increases in greenhouse gases can be inconsistent when one attempts the validation by looking for a regional or time-evolving "fingerprint" of such projected changes in real climatic data. Until climate models are driven by time-evolving, combined, multiple, and heterogeneous forcing factors, the best global climatic change "fingerprint" will probably remain a many-decades average of hemi-spheric- to global-scale trends in surface air temperatures. Century-long global warming (or cooling) trends of 0.5 degrees C appear to have occurred infrequently over the past several thousand years-perhaps only once or twice a millennium, as proxy records suggest. This implies an 80 to 90 percent heuristic likelihood that the 20th-century 0.5 +/- 0.2 degrees C warming trend is not a wholly natural climatic fluctuation.

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