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Journal Article

Adjustments in the forcing-feedback framework for understanding climate change


Stevens,  Bjorn       
Director’s Research Group AES, The Atmosphere in the Earth System, MPI for Meteorology, Max Planck Society;

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Sherwood, S. C., Bony, S., Boucher, O., Bretherton, C. S., Forster, P., Gregory, J., et al. (2015). Adjustments in the forcing-feedback framework for understanding climate change. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 96, 217-228. doi:10.1175/BAMS-D-13-00167.1.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0015-79FA-A
The traditional forcing–feedback framework has provided an indispensable basis for discussing global climate changes. However, as analysis of model behavior has become more detailed, shortcomings and ambiguities in the framework have become more evident, and physical effects unaccounted for by the traditional framework have become interesting. In particular, the new concept of adjustments, which are responses to forcings that are not mediated by the global-mean temperature, has emerged. This concept, related to the older ones of climate efficacy and stratospheric adjustment, is a more physical way of capturing unique responses to specific forcings. We present a pedagogical review of the adjustment concept, why it is important, and how it can be used. The concept is particularly useful for aerosols, where it helps to organize what has become a complex array of forcing mechanisms. It also helps clarify issues around cloud and hydrological response, transient versus equilibrium climate change, and geoengineering.