Absence of internal multidecadal and interdecadal oscillations in climate model simulations

Wednesday 29 January, 2020
CCRC Seminar Room, Level 4 Mathews

For several decades the existence of interdecadal and multidecadal internal climate oscillations has been asserted by numerous studies based on analyses of historical observations, paleoclimatic data and climate model simulations. Here we use a combination of observational data and state-of-the-art forced and control climate model simulations to demonstrate the absence of consistent evidence for decadal or longer-term internal oscillatory signals that are distinguishable from climatic noise. Only variability in the interannual range associated with the El Niño/Southern Oscillation is found to be distinguishable from the noise background. A distinct (40–50 year timescale) spectral peak that appears in global surface temperature observations appears to reflect the response of the climate system to both anthropogenic and natural forcing rather than any intrinsic internal oscillation. These findings have implications both for the validity of previous studies attributing certain long-term climate trends to internal low-frequency climate cycles and for the prospect of decadal climate predictability.

Bio: Dr Michael Mann is Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science and Director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University. His research focuses on climate science and climate change. He has received numerous awards including the Hans Oeschger Medal of the EGU, the National Conservation Achievement Award of the National Wildlife Foundation, the Friend of the Planet Award from the NCSE, the Award for Public Engagement with Science from the AAAS and the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement. He made Bloomberg News' list of fifty most influential people in 2013. He has authored more than 200 publications, and four books including Dire Predictions, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars, The Madhouse Effect, and The Tantrum that Saved the World.