IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group I: The Physical Science Basis

TS.2.3 Aviation Contrails and Cirrus, Land Use and Other Effects

Persistent linear contrails from global aviation contribute a small radiative forcing of +0.01 [+0.003 to +0.03] W m–2, with a low level of scientific understanding. This best estimate is smaller than the estimate in the TAR. This difference results from new observations of contrail cover and reduced estimates of contrail optical depth. No best estimates are available for the net forcing from spreading contrails. Their effects on cirrus cloudiness and the global effect of aviation aerosol on background cloudiness remain unknown. {2.6}

Human-induced changes in land cover have increased the global surface albedo, leading to a radiative forcing of 0.2 ± 0.2 W m–2, the same as in the TAR, with a medium-low level of scientific understanding. Black carbon aerosols deposited on snow reduce the surface albedo and are estimated to yield an associated radiative forcing of +0.1 ± 0.1 W m–2, with a low level of scientific understanding. Since the TAR, a number of estimates of the forcing from land use changes have been made, using better techniques, exclusion of feedbacks in the evaluation and improved incorporation of large-scale observations. Uncertainties in the estimate include mapping and characterisation of present-day vegetation and historical state, parametrization of surface radiation processes and biases in models’ climate variables. The presence of soot particles in snow leads to a decrease in the albedo of snow and a positive forcing, and could affect snowmelt. Uncertainties are large regarding the manner in which soot is incorporated in snow and the resulting optical properties. {2.5}

The impacts of land use change on climate are expected to be locally significant in some regions, but are small at the global scale in comparison with greenhouse gas warming. Changes in the land surface (vegetation, soils, water) resulting from human activities can significantly affect local climate through shifts in radiation, cloudiness, surface roughness and surface temperatures. Changes in vegetation cover can also have a substantial effect on surface energy and water balance at the regional scale. These effects involve non-radiative processes (implying that they cannot be quantified by a radiative forcing) and have a very low level of scientific understanding. {2.5, 7.2, 9.3, Box 11.4}

The release of heat from anthropogenic energy production can be significant over urban areas but is not significant globally. {2.5}