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

BER Research Highlights

DOE-Led Team Helps Resolve Long-Standing Puzzle in Climate Change Science
Published: October 13, 2008
Posted: January 27, 2009

Consistent with basic theoretical expectations, climate model experiments predict that greenhouse gas increases should lead to greater warming in the tropical troposphere (the lowest layer of the atmosphere) than at the tropical land and ocean surface. Until several years ago, most satellite and weather balloon records suggested that the tropical troposphere had warmed by substantially less than the surface. This apparent discrepancy between simulations and reality has been a major conundrum for climate scientists for nearly a decade.  Now, an international team led by DOE scientist Benjamin Santer of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, has helped to resolve this conundrum. Using randomly generated temperature data with no human warming component, the team showed that the statistical test being used identified statistically significant trend differences a higher proportion of the time than would be expected by chance alone. When they modified the test to correctly account for uncertainty in estimating temperature trends from noisy observational data, there were no longer pervasive, statistically significant differences between simulated and observed tropical temperature trends. Using this corrected test, many of the more recently developed observational datasets used by the Livermore-led team showed larger warming in the troposphere than at the surface, consistent with climate model results.

Reference: Santer, B. D., P. W. Thorne, L. Haimberger, K. E. Taylor, T. M. L. Wigley, J. R. Lanzante, S. Solomon, M. Free, P. J. Gleckler, P. D. Jones, T. R. Karl, S. A. Klein, C. Mears, D. Nychka, G. A. Schmidt, S. C. Sherwood, and F. J. Wentz. 2008. "Consistency of Modelled and Observed Temperature Trends in the Tropical Troposphere," International Journal of Climatology 28(13), 1703–22. DOI: 10.1002/joc.1756. (Reference link)

Contact: Anjuli Bamzai, SC-23.1, (301) 903-0294
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Earth and Environmental Systems Modeling

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

Aug 24, 2019
New Approach for Studying How Microbes Influence Their Environment
A diverse group of scientists suggests a common framework and targeting of known microbial processes [more...]

Aug 08, 2019
Nutrient-Hungry Peatland Microbes Reduce Carbon Loss Under Warmer Conditions
Enzyme production in peatlands reduces carbon lost to respiration under future high temperatures. [more...]

Aug 05, 2019
Amazon Forest Response to CO2 Fertilization Dependent on Plant Phosphorus Acquisition
AmazonFACE Model Intercomparison. The Science Plant growth is dependent on the availabi [more...]

Jul 29, 2019
A Slippery Slope: Soil Carbon Destabilization
Carbon gain or loss depends on the balance between competing biological, chemical, and physical reac [more...]

Jul 15, 2019
Field Evaluation of Gas Analyzers for Measuring Ecosystem Fluxes
How gas analyzer type and correction method impact measured fluxes. The Science A side- [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)