Variations in climate change due to atmospheric heat capacity

The surface air temperature trends and variability as a function of boundary layer depth. See the publication for further explanation. See the publication for further explanation.The surface air temperature trends and variability as a function of boundary layer depth. See the publication for further explanation. See the publication for further explanation.Drs. Igor Esau, Richard Davy and Stepen Outten at the GC Rieber Climate Institute at the Nansen center have demonstrated that much of the unevenness of global climate change can be explained by variations in the atmospheric heat capacity (see environmentalresearchweb). In the atmosphere the effective heat capacity is defined by the depth of the planetary boundary layer, which can vary from tens of meters to kilometers. Regions with shallow boundary-layers have a low heat capacity and therefore experience more rapid warming.

The unevenness of atmospheric heat capacity also underlies some of the global differences in natural variability, which explains the difficulty in identifying the signature of anthropogenic global warming against the background of natural variability, even in places with rapid warming such as the arctic.

Previously, global climate models have used quite simplified descriptions of the planetary boundary layer, which may account for some of the uncertainties in predicted temperature changes from these models. It is only recently that researchers have developed sufficiently detailed models to study shallow boundary layers with the required accuracy.

These results are published in Environmental Research Letters: Complementary explanation of temperature response in the lower atmosphere, Igor Esau, Richard Davy and Stephen Outten 2012 Environ. Res. Lett. 7 044026

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