Geo Journal Club

(back to CV)

What are the scientific foundations to forecast the global warming and to understand its consequences? What are the conceptual breakthroughs, limitations and further implications?

In Spring 2014 quarter, I organize a departmental climate weekly journal club (Geo Journal Club) to review classical warming papers, focusing on the very seminal ones in order to expose we young scholars to the history of climate science. Below is a timeline of the papers that we read.


Our journey start from Fourier 1827.

Week 1: The discovery of the Greenhouse Effect

Fourier 1824 (25pp), lead by Feng Ding


Week 2: The birth of modern climate science: baseline model

Arrhenius 1896 (39pp), lead by Andrew Malone

Arrhenius shows the climate sensitivity by working out the absorption of IR only based on moonlight, and he describes the water vapor feedback in a one-layer model


Week 3: The rising sky: first proof that the CO2 concentration had risen

Calendar 1938 (17pp), lead by Jun Yang

The first “alarm” of global warming using observations. The atmospheric CO2 had risen based on the available data during the 1930s.

Supplementary reading: Tyndall 1861 (12pp): Greenhouse effect can be induced by only a few trace gases


Week 4: Radiative Transfer: the first calculation of the infrared cooling rate

Plass 1956 (14pp), lead by Daniel Koll

This work demonstrates some real radiative transfer calculations. Note that until then, the period of 1900-1958 was called the “Dark Ages for Anthropogenic Global Warming” by Ray. All essential physics laws were well developed by the turning of the 20 century, e.g. Stefan-Boltzman law in 1879, Planck’s law in 1900, Schwartzchild equation in 1906, it seems we have everything there and should have done this very first calculation of CO2 radiative forcing earlier, though there was indeed some substantial contributions on figuring out the vertical temperature structure. It also worth mentioning that the first ABC computer was introduced in 1942, which enabled Plass to carry out the massive calculations that was not possible at the time of Callendar. However, Plass’s calculation was not fully correct due to the assumption of fixed atmosphere temperature.

Supplementary reading: Chap.6.6 of the Principles of Planetary Climate


Week 5: Ocean’s Role: Ocean can absorb fossil fuel CO2, will this be enough to cancel the emission?

Revelle and Suess 1957 (9pp), lead by Navah Farahat

Supplementary reading: Bolin 1958 (12pp)


Week 6: Accurate measurements of the CO2 concentration

Keeling 1960 (5pp), lead by Lei Wang

An interesting video on Youtube

Supplementary reading: Keeling 1970 (8pp)


Week 7: A successful prediction of Venus’s greenhouse gas effect

Sagen 1961, lead by Robin Wordsworth

A sucessful prediction of Venus’s greenhouse gas effect.

Supplementary reading: Sagan 1962


Week 8: Climate Sensitivity I: the Column Energy Balance

Manabe and Wetherald 1967 (18pp). lead by Clare Huang

This paper addresses the potential impact of CO2 on the Earth temperature. (1) It is the first successful radiative-convective model, (2) It shows that a 2XCO2 can induce a 2C warming, (3) It shows that the tropospheric warming is accompany with stratospheric cooling.

Supplementary reading: Gillett et al 2011. This paper confirmed the
stratospheric cooling that Manabe and Wetherald had predicted using the
state-of-the-art chemistry climate models and the available


Week 9: Climate Sensitivity II: the first GCM study

Manabe and Wetherald 1975 (12pp).  lead by Dawei Li

Are we satisfied with the column model? What can we learn
if we allow the moisture to be redistributed by the circulation? Why there
exist polar amplification? How does the land/contrast affect the solution?
What about precipitation? What kind of computer Manabe and Wetherald was
using back then? This paper revealed the geographic distribution of warming, and discovered the polar amplification.

Supplementary reading: Serreze et al. 2009 (8pp). This paper utilizes two reanalysis datasets to show how robust the polar amplification is and how it is linked with the loss of the sea ice cover.


Week 10: Perspectives and Counterarguments

Lindzen, 1997 (7pp), lead by Jonah Bloch-Johnson

Supplementary reading: Vallies et al 2014