The Appearance of 'Climate Change' and 'Global Warming" in AMS Scientific Articles [Time Series]


Below is a plot showing the time series of the number of articles mentioning ‘Climate Change’ and ‘Global Warming’ as well as the total number of articles published each year by American Meteorological Society (AMS) journals. The time series was constructed by searching the appearance of both phrases at least once in the abstracts.




The first article mentioning climate change in AMS journals was published in October 1958 by Richard Fay from the United States Weather Bureau. The name of the article is “Some Variations in European Climatic Temperature” and its abstract is:

“An attempt is made to depict mean circulation patterns associated with observed-temperature climate changes in northwest Europe during the period 1780–1930. Use is made of observed pressure gradients associated with warm and cold seasons and of computed annual wind directions at several stations. Results are presented as possible winter and summer mean circulation patterns at 30-yr intervals.”


The introduction of this article starts with “The climatic warming which has been so pronounced in northern Europe has received considerable study. The question arises as to how long this has been going on and how wide spread it is”. This article seems to be about a very early study on the question of the existence of climate change.

The next article mentioning climate change in AMS journals was published 14 years later in August 1972 by Warren Washington from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). The name of the article is “Numerical Climatic-Change Experiments: The Effect of Man’s Production of Thermal Energy” with the abstract:

We describe in this paper a set of general circulation model experiments on possible climate changes caused by man's generation of thermal energy or pollution. Three experiments were carried out: one in which we introduced only a small initial error, one in which we added the expected ultimate levels of thermal energy generation, and one in which we added a negative amount of thermal energy. In all three experiments, we obtained the same results, indicating that the thermal pollution effect is probably small compared to the natural fluctuations of the model. We also discuss some limitations of the present model for inferring the proper climatic-change response.”

The conclusions of this study are interesting:

“Our basic conclusion is that with the expected levels of man’s thermal energy production, there is a relatively small modification of the model earth-atmosphere heat balance…

…Furthermore, we know from geological records that natural fluctuations in climate occur, causing temperatures over large areas of the globe vary by several degrees. Before we can predict the small effect of man’s activities on climate, we must be able to understand these natural fluctuations”.

Although this article says the man’s effect is small, it is also mentioned that another 1971 article by Rasool and Schneider have suggested that an increase in atmospheric aerosol content by a factor of 4 may lead to a 3.5C decrease in surface temperature. 

The first time the phrase ‘global warming’ appears in the abstract of an AMS article was March 1980. The article called “Effect of Ice-Albedo Feedback on Global Sensitivity in a One-Dimensional Radiative-Convective Climate Model” by Wei-Chyung Wang and Peter H. Stone. Their abstract is:

"The feedback between ice albedo and temperature is included in a one-dimensional radiative-convective climate model. The effect of this feedback on global sensitivity to changes in solar constant is studied for the current climate conditions. This ice-albedo feedback amplifies global sensitivity by 26 and 39%, respectively, for assumptions of fixed cloud altitude and fixed cloud temperature. The global sensitivity is not affected significantly if the latitudinal variations of mean solar zenith angle and cloud cover are included in the global model. The differences in global sensitivity between one-dimensional radiative-convective models and energy balance models are examined. It is shown that the models are in close agreement when the same feedback mechanisms are included. The one-dimensional radiative-convective model with ice-albedo feedback included is used to compute the equilibrium ice line as a function of solar constant. It is found that the fixed cloud temperature parameterization breaks down before the completely ice-covered earth instability sets in, i.e., the lowest cloud layer intersects the ground. In addition, it is shown that the ice-albedo feedback has a similar amplification effect on the global warming caused by increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration as in the case of solar constant change.”

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