An oversimplified picture of the climate behavior based on a single process can lead to distorted conclusions
Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, USA
Accepted: 19 May 2020
Published online: 3 June 2020
The nature of the climate system is reviewed. We then review the history of scientific approaches to major problems in climate, noting that the centrality of the contribution of carbon dioxide is relatively recent, and probably inappropriate to much of the Earth’s climate history. The weakness of characterizing the overall climate behavior using only one physical process, globally averaged radiative forcing, is illustrated by considering the role of an equally well-known process, meridional heat transport by hydrodynamic processes which, by changing the equator-to-pole temperature difference, also impact global mean temperature.
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