Trace gases and other potential perturbations to global climate

Wei‐Chyung ‐C Wang, Donald J. Wuebbles, Warren M. Washington, Ronald G. Isaacs, Gyula Molnar

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


We review the various natural and anthropogenic factors that may affect the climate. The purpose is to summarize our understanding of these factors and their potential future climatic effects so that CO2‐induced climate change can be viewed in a proper context. The factors we discuss include trace gases, anthropogenic and volcanic aerosols, variation of solar constant, change of surface characteristics, and releases of waste heat. We discuss the origins of the various natural and anthropogenic perturbations, the physical and chemical processes and their interactions, model sensitivity calculations, and model projections of their potential future climatic effects. The discussions center on trace gases because of their potentially large climatic effects. It appears that the increases of atmospheric trace gases of other kinds in addition to CO2 could have important climatic effects. The model calculations suggest that the combined effect of these other trace gases, and the associated change of atmospheric ozone and water vapor distributions, could potentially warm the climate by an amount comparable in magnitude to the effect of doubling the CO2. Aerosols of anthropogenic origins may have substantial effects on regional climate, while the volcanic aerosols may have an effect on large‐scale climate for up to a few years after injection. Changes of surface characteristics and releases of waste heat may also have substantial effects on the regional climate, but these effects are most likely to be small when compared with the effect of CO2 increase. Changes of solar constant could have an effect on the global scale, but the time scale is much longer. There is much more that needs to be learned with regard to the above mentioned natural and anthropogenic factors that may affect the climate. A brief summary of those needs is presented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)110-140
Number of pages31
JournalReviews of Geophysics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1986
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics


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