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The Role of Long-Lived Greenhouse Gases as Principal LW Control Knob that Governs the Global Surface Temperature for Past and Future Climate ChangeThe climate system of the Earth is endowed with a moderately strong greenhouse effect that is characterized by non-condensing greenhouse gases (GHGs) that provide the core radiative forcing. Of these, the most important is atmospheric CO2. There is a strong feedback contribution to the greenhouse effect by water vapor and clouds that is unique in the solar system, exceeding the core radiative forcing due to the non-condensing GHGs by a factor of three. The significance of the non-condensing GHGs is that once they have been injected into the atmosphere, they remain there virtually indefinitely because they do not condense and precipitate from the atmosphere, their chemical removal time ranging from decades to millennia. Water vapor and clouds have only a short lifespan, with their distribution determined by the locally prevailing meteorological conditions, subject to Clausius-Clapeyron constraint. Although solar irradiance is the ultimate energy source that powers the terrestrial greenhouse effect, there has been no discernible long-term trend in solar irradiance since precise monitoring began in the late 1970s. This leaves atmospheric CO2 as the effective control knob driving the current global warming trend. Over geological time scales, volcanoes are the principal source of atmospheric CO2, and the weathering of rocks is the principal sink, with the biosphere participating as both a source and a sink. The problem at hand is that human industrial activity is causing atmospheric CO2, to increase by 2 ppm per year, whereas the interglacial rate has been 0.005 ppm per year. This is a geologically unprecedented rate to turn the CO2 climate control knob. This is causing the global warming that threatens the global environment.
Document ID
Document Type
Reprint (Version printed in journal)
Lacis, Andrew A. (NASA Goddard Inst. for Space Studies New York, NY United States)
Hansen, James E. (Columbia Univ. New York, NY, United States)
Russell, Gary L. (NASA Goddard Inst. for Space Studies New York, NY United States)
Oinas, Valdar (TRINNOVIM, LLC New York, NY, United States)
Jonas, Jeffrey (Columbia Univ. New York, NY, United States)
Date Acquired
November 3, 2015
Publication Date
November 27, 2013
Publication Information
Publication: Tellus Series B: Chemical and Physical Meteorology
Volume: 65
Subject Category
Meteorology and Climatology
Earth Resources and Remote Sensing
Report/Patent Number
Funding Number(s)
Distribution Limits
Greenhouse effect
Radiative forcing
Carbon dioxide
Global warming
Climate change