ClassicArticles/GlobalWarming/Article11

The effect of solar radiation variations on the climate of the Earth and A global climatic model based on the energy balance of the Earth-atmosphere system

Article Link (Budyko)

Article Link (Sellers)

Budyko, Mikhail I., 1969. The effect of solar radiation variations on the climate of the Earth, Tellus 21, 611–619. and Sellers, W. D., 1969. A global climatic model based on the energy balance of the Earth-atmosphere system. Journal of Applied Meteorology 8, 392-400.


Essay about this article

In 1969 two scientists, Mikhail I. Budyko at the Main Geophysical Observatory in Leningrad and William D. Sellers at the University of Arizona published simple climate models based on the energy budget of the Earth. The two articles, widely known collectively as “Budyko and Sellers” and presented here as one entry, indicated that rapid and dramatic changes—either warming or cooling—of the global climate were possible consequences of relatively minor perturbations, including those attributable to human activity.

Budyko, one of the founders of quantitative dynamic climatology, analyzed the relationship between measurements of direct solar radiation and mean surface temperature taken over the previous eight decades at 260 stations. He found, empirically, that a one percent change in solar radiation resulted in a 1.1 oC change in mean temperature. From basic theoretical considerations, he calculated this sensitivity should be 1.5 oC for a one percent change in solar radiation, which compared favorably to results from the more complex model of Manabe and Wetherald (1967). Citing earlier work by Humphreys (1929) on volcanic eruptions and Milankovitch (1930) on orbital variations, Budyko concluded that changes in atmospheric transparency due to volcanic dust could account for Quaternary glaciations , but the Milankovitch astronomical theory could not.

Budyko’s results indicated that the Earth’s current climate was precariously close to a critical point in which a slight cooling could result in total glaciation. On the other hand, human activity was likely to warm the planet. He estimated that at the present rate of growth of using energy, in 200 years the heat generated by human activities would equal that received from the sun. This would not only eliminate the possibility of glacial expansion, but would cause polar melting, sea level rise, and associated climate changes. Either scenario would result in an ecological catastrophe.

Sellers’s model used simple variables such as incoming solar radiation, the surface reflectivity, infrared losses, and turbulent heat exchange in the atmosphere and ocean to calculate the annual sea level temperature for each 10o latitude zone. By adjusting the parameters, he was able to examine possible climate variations, demonstrating, as did Budyko, that small changes could have dramatic effects. For example, a two to five percent decrease in incoming solar energy could initiate an ice age, while a greater decrease could glaciate the entire planet. At the other extreme, if anthropogenic carbon dioxide increased as projected (see Keeling, 1970), Sellers concluded that elimination of the ice caps and a global climate much warmer than today was possible. Sellers cited Budyko to the effect that humans may inadvertently be generating their own climate. Both authors issued a call for more powerful and general models and tempered their conclusions with the uncertainty that higher order or nonlinear effects could alter their conclusions considerably. Researchers valued the conceptual simplicity of these so-called “toy” models and anticipated comparing the results of Budyko and Sellers to those of more complex general circulation models. As pedagogical tools, they are useful for introducing students to fundamental considerations concerning the Earth’s heat budget.


Discussion Questions


a. What are so-called “toy” models and how are they used in climate science?


b. What other factors, in addition to carbon dioxide, need to be treated in climate modeling?


c. Compare the organization and practice of science in the US and the USSR when these articles were written.


References

Humphreys, W.J. 1929. Physics of the Air, 2d ed. New York.

Milankovitch, M. 1930, Mathematische Klimalehre und Astronomische Theorie der Klimaschwankungen. Handbuch der Klimatologie I, ed.

W. Köppen und R. Geiger. Berlin, Gebrüder Borntraeger.

Thayer Watkins, “Mikhail I. Budyko's Ice-Albedo Feedback Model,” http://www.applet-magic.com/budyko.htm

Thayer Watkins, “Sellers’ Energy-Balance Global Climate Model,” http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/watkins/sellers.htm


Acknowledgment Permission to include the full text of the Budyko paper, from the journal Tellus, now Tellus A and Tellus B is courtesy of Wiley-Blackwell. The Sellers paper, from J Applied Meteorology, now Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, is courtesy of theThe American Meteorological Society





Select articles citing these papers

BUDYKO

Wood, A. J., G. J. Ackland, et al. (2008). "Daisyworld: A review." Reviews of Geophysics 46(1).

Kleidon, A., K. Fraedrich, et al. (2007). "Multiple steady-states in the terrestrial atmosphere-biosphere system: a result of a discrete vegetation classification?" Biogeosciences 4(5): 707-714.

Arguez, A., A. M. Waple, et al. (2007). "State of the climate in 2006." Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 88(6): S8-S135.

Schlesinger, M. E. and J. F. B. Mitchell (1987). "CLIMATE MODEL SIMULATIONS OF THE EQUILIBRIUM CLIMATIC RESPONSE TO INCREASED CARBON-DIOXIDE." Reviews of Geophysics 25(4): 760-798.

Hansen, J. and S. Lebedeff (1987). "GLOBAL TRENDS OF MEASURED SURFACE AIR-TEMPERATURE." Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres 92(D11): 13345-13372.

Benzi, R., G. Parisi, et al. (1982). "STOCHASTIC RESONANCE IN CLIMATIC-CHANGE." Tellus 34(1): 10-16.

Imbrie, J. and J. Z. Imbrie (1980). "MODELING THE CLIMATIC RESPONSE TO ORBITAL VARIATIONS." Science 207(4434): 943-953.

Hasselmann, K. (1976). "STOCHASTIC CLIMATE MODELS .1. THEORY." Tellus 28(6): 473-485.

Manabe, S. and R. T. Wetherald (1975). "EFFECTS OF DOUBLING CO2 CONCENTRATION ON CLIMATE OF A GENERAL CIRCULATION MODEL." Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences 32(1): 3-15.

Twomey, S. (1974). "POLLUTION AND PLANETARY ALBEDO." Atmospheric Environment 8(12): 1251-1256.


SELLERS

Kleidon, A., K. Fraedrich, et al. (2007). "Multiple steady-states in the terrestrial atmosphere-biosphere system: a result of a discrete vegetation classification?" Biogeosciences 4(5): 707-714.

Schwierz, C., C. Appenzeller, et al. (2006). "Challenges posed by and approaches to the study of seasonal-to-decadal climate variability." Climatic Change 79(1-2): 31-63.

Kravtsov, S. and M. Ghil (2004). "Interdecadal variability in a hybrid coupled ocean-atmosphere-sea ice model." Journal of Physical Oceanography 34(7): 1756-1775.

Schlesinger, M. E. and J. F. B. Mitchell (1987). "CLIMATE MODEL SIMULATIONS OF THE EQUILIBRIUM CLIMATIC RESPONSE TO INCREASED CARBON-DIOXIDE." Reviews of Geophysics 25(4): 760-798.

Walker, J. C. G., P. B. Hays, et al. (1981). "A NEGATIVE FEEDBACK MECHANISM FOR THE LONG-TERM STABILIZATION OF EARTHS SURFACE-TEMPERATURE." Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans and Atmospheres 86(NC10): 9776-9782.

Imbrie, J. and J. Z. Imbrie (1980). "MODELING THE CLIMATIC RESPONSE TO ORBITAL VARIATIONS." Science 207(4434): 943-953.

Berger, A. L. (1978). "LONG-TERM VARIATIONS OF CALORIC INSOLATION RESULTING FROM EARTHS ORBITAL ELEMENTS." Quaternary Research 9(2): 139-167.

Hasselmann, K. (1976). "STOCHASTIC CLIMATE MODELS .1. THEORY." Tellus 28(6): 473-485.

Manabe, S. and R. T. Wetherald (1975). "EFFECTS OF DOUBLING CO2 CONCENTRATION ON CLIMATE OF A GENERAL CIRCULATION MODEL." Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences 32(1): 3-15.

Sagan, C. and G. Mullen (1972). "EARTH AND MARS - EVOLUTION OF ATMOSPHERES AND SURFACE TEMPERATURES." Science 177(4043): 52-&.



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