A guest post by Nic Lewis
A recent PAGES 2k Consortium paper in Nature,[i] Abram et al., that claims human-induced, greenhouse gas driven warming commenced circa 180 years ago,[ii] has been attracting some attention. The study arrives at its start dates by using a change-point analysis method, SiZer, to assess when the most recent significant and sustained warming trend commenced. Commendably, the lead author has provided the data and Matlab code used in the study, including the SiZer code.[iii]
Their post-1500 AD proxy-based regional reconstructions are the PAGES2K reconstructions, which have been discussed and criticized on many occasions at CA (see tag), with the Gergis et al 2016 Australian reconstruction substituted for the withdrawn version. I won’t comment on the validity of the post-1500 AD proxy-based regional reconstructions on which the observational side of their study is based – Steve McIntyre is much better placed than me to do so.
However, analysis of those reconstructions can only provide evidence as to when sustained warming started, not as to whether the cause was natural or anthropogenic. In this post, I will examine and question the paper’s conclusions about the early onset of warming detected in the study being attributable to the small increase in greenhouse gas emissions during the start of the Industrial Age.
The authors’ claim that the start of anthropogenic warming can be dated to the 1830s is based on model simulations of climate change from 1500 AD on.[iv] A simple reality check points to that claim being likely to be wrong: it flies in the face of the best estimates of the evolution of radiative forcing. According to the IPCC 5th Assessment [Working Group I] Report (AR5) estimates, the change in total effective radiative forcing from preindustrial (which the IPCC takes as 1750) to 1840 was –0.01 W/m2, or +0.01 W/m2 if changes only in anthropogenic forcings, and not solar and volcanic forcings, are included. Although the increase in forcing from all greenhouse gases (including ozone) is estimated to be +0.20 W/m2 by 1840, that forcing is estimated to be almost entirely cancelled out by negative forcing, primarily from anthropogenic aerosols and partly from land use change increasing planetary albedo.[v] Total anthropogenic forcing did not reach +0.20 W/m2 until 1890; in 1870 it was still under +0.10 W/m2. Continue reading