Detecting climate signals in the surface temperature record Academic Article uri icon


  • Optimal signal detection theory has been applied in a search through 100 yr of surface temperature data for the climate response to four specific radiative forcings. The data used comes from 36 boxes on the earth and was restricted to the frequency band 0.016-0.13 cycles yr-1 (16.67-7.69 yr) in the analysis. Estimates were sought of the strengths of the climate response to solar variability, volcanic aerosols, greenhouse gases, and anthropogenic aerosols. The optimal fitler was constructed with a signal waveform computed from a two-dimensional energy balance model (EBM). The optimal weights were computed from a 10 000-yr control run of a noise-forced EBM and from 1000-yr control runs from coupled ocean-atmosphere models at Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) and Max-Planck Institute: the authors also used a 1000-yr run using the GFDL mixed layer model. Results are reasonably consistent across these four separate model formulations. It was found that the component of the volcanic response perpendicular to the other signals was very robust and highly significant. Similarly, the component of the greenhouse gas response perpendicular to the others was very robust and highly significant. When the sum of all four climate forcings was used, the climate response was more than three standard deviations above the noise level. These findings are considered to be powerful evidence of anthropogenically induced climate change.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 9.544

author list (cited authors)

  • North, G. R., & Stevens, M. J.

citation count

  • 61

complete list of authors

  • North, GR||Stevens, MJ

publication date

  • April 1998