U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

Is Radiative Forcing Between Land-Use Change and Greenhouse Gases Additive?
Published: August 06, 2013
Posted: September 12, 2013

A recent U.S. Department of Energy study by researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory sought to determine how land-use change responds to increasing greenhouse gas forcing, from both regional and global climate change perspectives. The researchers found that predictions based on net radiative forcing are inaccurate. In particular, the study examined an idealized scenario in which positive forcing from greenhouse gases is balanced by an approximately equal magnitude of negative forcing from conversion of natural vegetation to agriculture. If forcings from land-use change and greenhouse gases can be treated as perfectly balanced, very little climate change would be expected in this nearly neutral forcing scenario. However, the study found widespread significant changes in temperature, precipitation, and atmospheric circulation. Furthermore, the land-use change climate response occurred on a much faster timescale than the greenhouse gas climate response, implying a significant imbalance between greenhouse forcing and negative forcings associated with land-use change. While this study challenges the utility of combining radiative forcing from substantially different climate drivers like land-use change and greenhouse gases, it did find that spatially resolved climate responses of individual forcings could be combined linearly to reproduce their joint climate effect. That is, while the forcing values themselves are not additive in a meaningful way, their climate responses appear to be additive. This final result suggests an alternative approach for climate change assessment protocols that currently rely on a measure of net radiative forcing to determine climate outcomes of different socioeconomic, technology, and policy scenarios.

Reference: Jones, A. D., W. D. Collins, and M. S. Torn. 2013. “On the Additivity of Radiative Forcing Between Land-Use Change and Greenhouse Gases,” Geophysical Research Letters 40 , 4036–41. DOI: 10.1002/grl.50754. (Reference link)

Contact: Dorothy Koch, SC-23.1, (301) 903-0105, Bob Vallario, SC 23.1, (301) 903-5758
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Earth and Environmental Systems Modeling
  • Research Area: Multisector Dynamics (formerly Integrated Assessment)

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER


BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

May 10, 2019
Quantifying Decision Uncertainty in Water Management via a Coupled Agent-Based Model
Considering risk perception can improve the representation of human decision-making processes in age [more...]

May 09, 2019
Projecting Global Urban Area Growth Through 2100 Based on Historical Time Series Data and Future Scenarios
Study provides country-specific urban area growth models and the first dataset on country-level urba [more...]

May 05, 2019
Calibrating Building Energy Demand Models to Refine Long-Term Energy Planning
A new, flexible calibration approach improved model accuracy in capturing year-to-year changes in bu [more...]

May 03, 2019
Calibration and Uncertainty Analysis of Demeter for Better Downscaling of Global Land Use and Land Cover Projections
Researchers improved the Demeter model’s performance by calibrating key parameters and establi [more...]

Apr 22, 2019
Representation of U.S. Warm Temperature Extremes in Global Climate Model Ensembles
Representation of warm temperature events varies considerably among global climate models, which has [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)