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All Observed Anthropogenic:

• Represent a direct or indirect observation demonstrating why the warming trend since the mid-20th century is anthropogenic (i.e. the result of an enhanced greenhouse effect.)
• Are built upon an established framework of several assumed facts:
• That greenhouse gases are rising.
• That this rise is due to anthropogenic activities.
• That the planet has warmed since the mid-20th Century.
• That the presence of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will (at least theoretically) cause a planet's temperature at its surface and lower atmosphere to be greater than if they were not present.
As an established baseline, the sources below are not focused on establishing the validity on any of the above given facts. They are instead focused specifically on the lines of evidence which attribute the observed temperature rise since the mid-20th century to this human-driven rise in greenhouse gases.

Decreasing DTR

Diurnal Temperature Range (DTR)

A shrinking diurnal temperature range (the difference between the hottest [daytime] and coldest [nighttime]...

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A shrinking diurnal temperature range (the difference between the hottest [daytime] and coldest [nighttime] temperature at a particular location) is a predicted effect of warming as a result of a strengthening greenhouse effect.

This can be intuitive. Consider that the majority of the radiation that interacts with greenhouse gases comes from the Earth's surface, as longwave infrared, rather than shortwave from the sun. Since the Earth's surface is emitting longwave IR day and night, the greenhouse effect works both day and night at any particular location, while the sun's energy only makes a contribution during the day.

Imagine a hypothetical, very weak, greenhouse effect. Take solar energy to be 1300 at high noon, 0 at night, with a greenhouse effect of 1 all the time. From day:night then, the planet receives 1301x more energy during the day than at night.

Now, increase the strength of the greenhouse effect to 500. During the day the combined incoming energy to the surface becomes (1301 + 500), compared to 500 at night. Now, the difference between day and night is only 3.6x. Both daytime and nighttime temperatures are higher with the stronger greenhouse effect, but it is the night that has gained by far the most proportionally, and this is true regardless of what the actual greenhouse gas contributions may be. It should be clear from this example too that increasing the solar component alone (either by increasing the sun's output, reducing cloud cover, or other global brightening factor) would *increase* the ratio from day to night by warming only daytime temperatures and keeping nighttime unaffected, thus producing the opposite signature of days warming faster than nights.

Astronomical analogies emphasize the point: Venus, with a greenhouse effect much stronger than Earth's, is a dramatic example of this effect, with a diurnal temperature range of effectively 0. Bodies with no greenhouse effect, however, such as the Moon and Mercury, have DTRs of approximately 300 C and 600 C, respectively.

Thus, a planetary warming driven by an enhanced greenhouse effect has a relatively unique expected signature: a multi-year warming rate that is greater at night than at daytime, or (in other words) an expected reduction in the mean difference between daytime maximum and nighttime minimum temperature. The multiple studies below which present evidence that this reduction is being observed thus represent a strong line of empirical evidence that the warming since the mid-20th century is being driven by an enhanced greenhouse effect.
Upper Atmosphere Cooling

Upper Atmosphere Cooling

The cooling of the upper atmosphere in response to an increase in CO2 was predicted over 50 years ago...

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The cooling of the upper atmosphere in response to an increase in CO2 was predicted over 50 years ago:

The larger the mixing ratio of carbon dioxide…
1) …the warmer is the equilibrium temperature of the earth's surface and troposphere.
2) …the colder is the equilibrium temperature of the stratosphere.

(Manabe and Wetherald, 1966; Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences, p251)

One reason for this is that greenhouse gases absorb infrared radiation that is emitted by the Earth’s surface; without them, infrared radiation emitted by Earth would proceed uninterrupted to space. As the concentration of greenhouse gases increase, any particular photon has a greater chance of being absorbed by a greenhouse gas molecule. Since a greenhouse gas molecule which absorbed the photon can re-radiate it in a random direction, this has the immediate effect of preventing its energy from reaching the upper atmosphere. Until equilibrium is re-established by surface warming (which generates more IR photons to compensate), the stratosphere receives less energy with an increase in the strength of the greenhouse effect in the troposphere, and therefore cools.

It is not necessary for a lack of equilibrium to exist, however. Consider that CO2 is less abundant in the stratosphere than it is in the troposphere. Put another way, more of the stratosphere is composed of gases that are not greenhouse gases, like O2 and N2, than it is by greenhouse gasses. Although N2 and O2 do not absorb longwave IR, they are able to absorb shorter wavelengths (from the sun). This increases their energy and they move faster, which is synonymous with being warmer. Because these molecules cannot emit longwave IR, energy transfer between molecules can only happen s via collisions (conduction). When an O2 or N2 molecule collides with another O2 or N2 molecule, kinetic energy can be transferred from one to the other.

CO2 is also capable of moving, but it is also able to vibrate in an excited state when it absorbs energy. When an N2 or O2 collides with a CO2 molecule, then, the N2/O2 will cool after transferring its energy to the CO2. But if the collision results not in a 1:1 transfer of kinetic energy, and instead the CO2 molecule moves to an excited vibrational state, kinetic energy (temperature) is no longer conserved and thus the average temperature of the collided molecules is less. The excited state is then relaxed by the emission of an IR photon. And because of the lower concentration of greenhouse gases in the upper atmosphere, any emitted photon has a greater chance of reaching space than would a photon emitted by a CO2 molecule in the troposphere.

Increasing CO2 concentrations in the troposphere will also increase them in the stratosphere, wherein they enable a more effective radiation of the photons, and thus lead to a cooler temperature.

By contrast, a warming caused by an increase in solar forcing, for example – either directly from the sun being more active, or from an increase in clouds (which would reflect shortwave, rather than longwave, back to the upper atmosphere) – would increase the shortwave absorption by N2 and O2 and therefore warm the stratosphere. Only a greenhouse-gas induced warming produces the signature of a warming lower atmosphere and cooling upper atmosphere.
Warming Anomalous Historically

Warming Anomalous Historically

In general, any trend in Earth’s temperature has an underlying physical cause. Without a driving, or forcing, of temperature change…

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In general, any trend in Earth’s temperature has an underlying physical cause. Without a driving, or forcing, of temperature change, the temperature would remain constant. There can be multiple possible causes of any temperature change, and so two different temperature changes in history – even of similar rate and magnitude – may not necessarily be due to the same underlying cause. Because of this, there is no reason to demand perfectly stable temperatures – or no record of similar temperature change events – in Earth’s geological past as a pre-requisite to attributing the current warming to man-made causes, if the causes underlying previous warming events are known to be nonexistent today.

In other words, the fact that the Earth's temperature *can* change naturally is not evidence that it can only ever change naturally. This would be no more logical than observing an animal dying naturally and concluding that humans are incapable of killing an animal. The question, therefore, is not whether the Earth's average temperature can vary naturally, because it certainly can: it is whether the observed increase in temperature since the mid-20th century is *also* natural.

What the recent stability of temperatures does do is show that the rate of warming observed since the mid-20th century has not been observed in the past 2,000 years and therefore any ‘natural’ cycle that could produce it must have a frequency that is longer than this. It also shows that something must have changed since the mid-20th century. Indeed, the overall trend from the proxy records tends to show that over many millenia the long-term trend was one of gradual cooling. A forcing must have been introduced that was not only not naturally present over the past 2,000 years, but which was sufficient to reverse the underlying cooling trend.

What this does not do is prove that the warming since the mid-20th century is due to human activities – this is only able to be demonstrated by ruling out other possible natural causes, and finding unique fingerprints in the way in which the planet is warming that are exclusively consistent with a warming caused by an increase in greenhouse gas concentrations. These fingerprints are presented as the other lines of evidence here.

Simplified figure originally from Mann et al., 2008, reproduced under educational use license. Copyright 2008 National Academy of Sciences.

Quick filter by anthropogenic evidence type:
Shortlist Category Number Citations Year Cite As DOI Key Quote
Upper Atmosphere Cooling 672013Top (Santer et al., 2013) the late 1970s, satellite-based instruments have monitored global changes in atmospheric temperature. These measurements reveal multidecadal tropospheric warming and stratospheric cooling...We show that a human-caused latitude/altitude pattern of atmospheric temperature change can be identified with high statistical confidence in satellite data
Upper Atmosphere Cooling 262014(Ogawa et al., 2014) European Incoherent Scatter radar has gathered data in the polar ionosphere above Tromso for over 33-years. Using this long-term data set, we have estimated the first significant trends of ion temperature at altitudes between 200 and 450-km. The estimated trends indicate a cooling of 10-15-K/decade near the F region peak (220-380-km altitude)
Upper Atmosphere Cooling 1021997(Ulich and Turunen, 1997) find a close to linear decrease in the altitude of the F2 layer peak during the last 39 years, when the effect of solar cycle variations is removed from the data. This local trend is qualitatively consistent with the model predictions of a cooling of the lower thermosphere.
Upper Atmosphere Cooling 931992(Bremer, 1992) long-term ionosonde measurements in mid-latitudes (Juliusruh: 54.6N, 13.4E; 1957-1990), the first experimental hints of a decrease of the peak height of the ionospheric F2-layer were found...These results qualitatively agree with the predictions of Rishbeth [(1990) Planet. Space Sci.38, 945] who expected a lowering of the E- and F2-layer caused by a global cooling of the strato, meso- and thermosphere due to the increasing greenhouse effect.
Upper Atmosphere Cooling 1182004Top (Emmert et al., 2004) results cover all levels of solar activity during the period 1996-2001, and each object indicates a long-term decrease of total mass density...The trends that we obtain are qualitatively, and in some cases quantitatively, consistent with available theoretical predictions of density decreases associated with the cooling effect of increased greenhouse gas concentrations.
Upper Atmosphere Cooling 1142008Top (Emmert et al., 2008) use orbit data on ∼5000 near-Earth space objects to investigate long-term trends in thermospheric total mass density, which has been predicted to decrease with time due to increasing CO2 concentrations...At 400 km, we estimate an overall trend of -2.68 +/- 0.49 % per decade and trends of ∼-5 and -2 % per decade at solar minimum and maximum, respectively, in fair quantitative agreement with theoretical predictions
Upper Atmosphere Cooling 352008(Holt and Zhang, 2008) data from the Millstone Hill incoherent scatter radar (46.2N, 288.5E) from 1978 to 2007 have been analyzed to provide a direct estimate of the temperature trend above the radar. The long-term trend in the directly measured ion temperature Ti at 375 km is found to be −4.7 K/year with a 95% confidence interval of −3.6 to −5.8 K
Upper Atmosphere Cooling 412011(Zhang et al., 2011) cooling trend at altitudes above 200 km and an apparent warming trend below 200 km are found...these changes appear to be suggestive of a long-term greenhouse gas effect.
Upper Atmosphere Cooling 632011(Seidel et al., 2011) show overall cooling of the stratosphere during the period for which they are available (since the late 1950s and late 1970s from radiosondes and satellites, respectively)
Upper Atmosphere Cooling 1622005(Thorne et al., 2005) the lower stratosphere, at 100 hPa...Over the entire period of 1958 to 2002 there is an overall global cooling at 100 hPa...Zonal mean trends over the full period 1958-2002 exhibit warming throughout the troposphere, and cooling in the stratosphere
Upper Atmosphere Cooling 2432009(Randel et al., 2009) in the middle and upper stratosphere have been derived from updated SSU data, taking into account changes in the SSU weighting functions due to observed atmospheric CO2 increases. The results show mean cooling of 0.5-1.5 K/decade during 1979-2005, with the greatest cooling in the upper stratosphere near 40-50 km.
Upper Atmosphere Cooling 862006Top (Lastovicka et al., 2006) the past three decades, the global temperature at Earth's surface has increased by 0.2 to 0.4 C, compared with a 5 to 10 C decrease in the lower and middle mesosphere.. The upper atmosphere is generally cooling and contracting, and related changes in chemical composition are affecting the ionosphere. The dominant driver of these trends is increasing greenhouse forcing.
Upper Atmosphere Cooling 412016(Randel et al., 2016) trends over 1979-2015 show that cooling increases with altitude from the lower stratosphere (from ~-0.1 to -0.2 K decade-1) to the middle and upper stratosphere (from ~-0.5 to -0.6 K decade-1).
Upper Atmosphere Cooling 3102001(Ramaswamy et al., 2001) review the long-term trends from approximately the mid-1960s to the mid-1990s period. The stratosphere has, in general, undergone considerable cooling over the past 3 decades.
Upper Atmosphere Cooling 391998(Pawson et al., 1998) hemispheric temperature analyses for the time period July 1964 until June 1997 are used to investigate the long-term changes of the lower and middle stratosphere...there is a clear cooling over the 33 years considered.
Upper Atmosphere Cooling02020(French et al., 2020) rotational temperatures are a layer-weighted proxy for kinetic temperatures near 87 km altitude and have been used for many decades to monitor trends in the mesopause region in response to increasing greenhouse gas emissions...a record low winter-average temperature of 198.3 K is obtained for 2018...a long term cooling trend of 1.2 K/decade persists
Upper Atmosphere Cooling02012(Wang et al., 2012) 1979-2006, the global mean trends for the midstratosphere , upper stratosphere, and top stratosphere, are respectively -1.236 +/- 0.131, -0.926 +/- 0.139, and -1.006 +/- 0.194 K decade-1. Spatial trend pattern analyses indicated that this cooling occurred globally with larger cooling over the tropical stratosphere.
Upper Atmosphere Cooling02022(Mlynczak et al., 2022) observations show that the mesosphere and lower thermosphere has significantly cooled and contracted between the years 2002 and 2019 (the year of the most recent solar minimum) due to a combination of a decline in the intensity of the 11-year solar cycle and increasing carbon dioxide (CO2.)

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