Publication Abstracts

Rind and Lebedeff 1984

Rind, D., and S. Lebedeff, 1984: Potential Climatic Impacts of Increasing Atmospheric CO2 with Emphasis on Water Availability and Hydrology in the United States. United States Environmental Protection Agency.

The increase of CO2 in the atmosphere resulting from fossil fuel combustion is expected to have a profound climatic effect, due to the ability of carbon dioxide to absorb radiation emitted from the earth atmosphere system. It is expected that increasing CO2 will warm the atmosphere. The magnitude of this warming, and the consequences for the other aspects of the climate system — e.g. precipitation patterns, clouds, winds, etc. — are currently being investigated by a variety of scientific researchers.

Two recent reviews of the evidence by the National Academy of Sciences (1979, 1981) concluded that a doubling of carbon dioxide would probably lead to an increase in mean global surface temperature of between 1.5°C and 4.5°. This range was determined primarily from reviewing results of several mathematical models of the earth's climate, the most sophisticated models of which, the General Circulation Models, incorporate representations of many physical processes in a three dimensional framework. These models are also capable of indicating changes in the other climate variables, and, in particular, can assess expected alterations in components of the hydrological cycle.

This report concentrates on analyzing the hydrologic changes over the North American continent that were produced by doubling the carbon dioxide in the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) general circulation model. The first section of this report describes the model and provides a comparison between the model output and the actual current climate. The changes that the model produces with a doubling of the atmospheric carbon dioxide are then presented. The second section attempts to put the results in perspective by examining historical variations in precipitation.

The results presented in this report, while giving plausible estimates of potential hydrological changes at the regional level, should be used and interpreted with great care. Many aspects of the GCM lead to uncertainty in the reliability of the results. The computation of changes at a relatively coarse geographic scale necessarily introduces uncertainty as to the magnitude of the change on a smaller scale. Other uncertainties are introduced because some relevant processes — ocean transports and cloud process, for example — are modeled very crudely. Consequently the certainty that can be attached to various results is problematical. In some grid boxes and regions there may be large errors. Thus even though it is possible to conclude that climatic nonnals, whether they be thirty year or one hundred year averages, cannot be reliably used as predictors of future means or variation in climate it is as yet impossible to project future conditions accurately.

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BibTeX Citation

  author={Rind, D. and Lebedeff, S.},
  title={Potential Climatic Impacts of Increasing Atmospheric CO2 with Emphasis on Water Availability and Hydrology in the United States},
  publisher={United States Environmental Protection Agency},

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RIS Citation

ID  - ri03010z
AU  - Rind, D.
AU  - Lebedeff, S.
PY  - 1984
BT  - Potential Climatic Impacts of Increasing Atmospheric CO2 with Emphasis on Water Availability and Hydrology in the United States
PB  - United States Environmental Protection Agency
ER  -

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