An Overview of Century Time-Scale Variability in the Climate System: Observations and Models

  • Thomas F. Stocker
Part of the NATO ASI Series book series (volume 44)


Estimates of the development of the Earth’s climate subject to anthropogenic forcing depend critically on our knowledge of natural climate variability on time scales of decades to centuries. Time scales extracted from high-resolution proxy records and observations indicate that the spectrum of climate variability exhibits significant power in the range of decades to centuries superimposed on a red-noise continuum. The classical view of climate variability is based on the concept that observed fluctuations have their origin in periodic forcings on the same time scale, i.e. that the climate system behaves like a linear system that is externally forced. The present sensitivity of the climate system, however, would require strong positive feedback mechanisms to translate the weak forcing signals (e.g. variability of solar irradiation) into detectable fluctuations in observed and proxy variables. Instead, it is proposed that these fluctuations are linked to interactions within and between the different climate system components. An overview of recent modeling results and the discussion of mechanisms involved show that such interactions internal to the climate system cannot only exhibit the correct time scales but also easily account for the amplitudes observed.


Climate System Mixed Boundary Condition Ocean General Circulation Model Thermohaline Circulation Freshwater Flux 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas F. Stocker
    • 1
  1. 1.Climate and Environmental PhysicsBernSwitzerland

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