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Radiative Forcing of Climate Change: Expanding the Concept and Addressing Uncertainties
FIGURE ES-1 Conceptual framework of climate forcing, response, and feedbacks under present-day climate conditions. Examples of human activities, forcing agents, climate system components, and variables that can be involved in climate response are provided in the lists in each box.
Examples include changes in solar energy output, volcanic emissions, deliberate land modification, or anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases, aerosols, and their precursors. A climate feedback is an internal climate process that amplifies or dampens the climate response to a specific forcing. An example is the increase in atmospheric water vapor that is triggered by an initial warming due to rising carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations, which then acts to amplify the warming through the greenhouse properties of water vapor. Climate forcings are usefully subdivided into direct radiative forcings, indirect radiative forcings, and nonradiative forcings. Direct radiative forcings directly affect the radiative budget of the Earth; for example, added CO2 absorbs and emits infrared (IR) radiation. Indirect radiative forcings create an energy imbalance by first altering climate system components (e.g., precipitation efficiency of clouds), which then lead to changes in radiative fluxes; an example is the effect of solar variability on stratospheric ozone. Nonradiative forcings create an energy imbalance that does not directly involve radiation; an example is the increasing evapotranspiration flux resulting from agricultural irrigation.
Studies of long-term changes in climate have emphasized global mean surface temperature as the primary index for climate change. The concept of “radiative forcing” provides a way to quantify and compare the contributions of different agents that affect surface temperature. Radiative forc-