Persistence of climate changes due to a range of greenhouse gases

Solomon, S.; Daniel, J. S.; Sanford, T. J.; Murphy, D. M.; Plattner, Gian-Kasper; Knutti, R.; Friedlingstein, P. (2010). Persistence of climate changes due to a range of greenhouse gases. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America - PNAS, 107(43), pp. 18354-18359. National Academy of Sciences NAS 10.1073/pnas.1006282107

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Emissions of a broad range of greenhouse gases of varying lifetimes contribute to global climate change. Carbon dioxide displays exceptional persistence that renders its warming nearly irreversible for more than 1,000 y. Here we show that the warming due to non-CO2 greenhouse gases, although not irreversible, persists notably longer than the anthropogenic changes in the greenhouse gas concentrations themselves. We explore why the persistence of warming depends not just on the decay of a given greenhouse gas concentration but also on climate system behavior, particularly the timescales of heat transfer linked to the ocean. For carbon dioxide and methane, nonlinear optical absorption effects also play a smaller but significant role in prolonging the warming. In effect, dampening factors that slow temperature increase during periods of increasing concentration also slow the loss of energy from the Earth’s climate system if radiative forcing is reduced. Approaches to climate change mitigation options through reduction of greenhouse gas or aerosol emissions therefore should not be expected to decrease climate change impacts as rapidly as the gas or aerosol lifetime, even for short-lived species; such actions can have their greatest effect if undertaken soon enough to avoid transfer of heat to the deep ocean.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > Climate and Environmental Physics
08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute

UniBE Contributor:

Plattner, Gian-Kasper


500 Science > 530 Physics




National Academy of Sciences NAS




Doris Rätz

Date Deposited:

17 May 2021 14:22

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:51

Publisher DOI:





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