Along with the continuing uncertainty associated with global climate sensitivity 24.5, for doubled CO2 in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, we have not made much progress in improving our understanding of the past/future sensitivity of low- and high-latitude climates. Disagreements in paleoclimate interpretations, and diverse results from the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report future climate model simulations suggest that this uncertainty is still a factor of 2 in both latitude regimes. Cloud cover is the primary reason for model discrepancies at low latitudes, while snow/sea ice differences along with cloud cover affect the high-latitude response. While these uncertainties obviously affect our ability to predict future climate-change impacts in the tropics and polar regions directly, the uncertainty in latitudinal temperature gradient changes affects projections of future atrriospheric dynamics, including changes in the tropical Hadley cell, midlatitude storms, and annual oscillation modes, with ramifications for regional climates. In addition, the uncertainty extends to the patterns of sea surface temperature changes, with, for example, no consensus concerning longitudinal gradient changes within each of the tropical oceans. We now know a good deal more about how latitudinal and longitudinal gradients affect regional climates; we just do not know how these gradients will change. New satellite observations and field programs are underway, which should help improve our modeling capability, although there is no guarantee that these issues will be resolved before a substantial global warming impact is upon us. A review of this topic is presented here.
Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society – American Meteorological Society
Published: Jun 5, 2008
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