Transient response of the global mean warming rate and its spatial variation

James S. Risbey*, Michael R. Grose, Didier P. Monselesan, Terence J. O'Kane, Stephan Lewandowsky

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
320 Downloads (Pure)


The Earth has warmed over the past century. The warming rate (amount of warming over a given period) varies in time and space. Observations show a recent increase in global mean warming rate, which is initially maintained in model projections, but which diverges substantially in future depending on the emissions scenario followed. Scenarios that stabilize forcing lead to much lower warming rates, as the rate depends on the change in forcing, not the amount. Warming rates vary spatially across the planet, but most areas show a shift toward higher warming rates in recent decades. The areal distribution of warming rates is also changing shape to include a longer tail in recent decades. Some areas of the planet are already experiencing extreme warming rates of about 1 °C/decade. The fat tail in areal distribution of warming rates is pronounced in model runs when the forcing and global mean warming rate is increasing, and indicates a climate state more prone to regime transitions. The area-proportion of the Earth displaying warming/cooling trends is shown to be directly related to the global mean warming rate, especially for trends of length 15 years and longer. Since the global mean warming rate depends on the forcing rate, the proportion of warming/cooling trend areas in future also depends critically on the choice of future forcing scenario.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-64
Number of pages10
JournalWeather and Climate Extremes
Early online date26 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017

Structured keywords

  • Memory
  • TeDCog


  • Climate projection
  • Climate variability
  • Extreme warming
  • Transient response


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