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Definition of Terms Used Within the DDC Pages

Glossary R

Glossary of acronyms and specialised terms on the IPCC-DDC website.
The definitions shown here are from the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) working group glossaries: WGI, WGII and WGIII. The source working group is indicated on each definition.

A | B | C | D | E | F-G | H-I | J-K | L-M | N-O | P-Q | R | S | T | U-V | W-Z

Radiative Forcing

Radiative forcing is the change in the net, downward minus upward, radiative flux (expressed in Watts per square metre; W m-2) at the tropopause or top of atmosphere due to a change in an external driver of climate change, such as, for example, a change in the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) or the output of the Sun. WGIII

Sometimes internal drivers are still treated as forcings even though they result from the alteration in climate, for example aerosol or greenhouse gas changes in paleoclimates. The traditional radiative forcing is computed with all tropospheric properties held fixed at their unperturbed values, and after allowing for stratospheric termperature, if perturbed, to readjust to radiative-dynamical equilibrium. Radiative forcing is called instantaneous if no change in stratospheric temperature is accounted for. The radiative forcing once rapid adjustments are accounted for is termed the effective radiative forcing. For the purposes of the WG1 AR5 report, radiative forcing is further defined as the change relative to the year 1750 and, unless otherwise noted, refers to a global and annual average value. Radiative forcing is not to be confused with cloud radiative forcing, which describes an unrelated measure of the impact of clouds on the radiative flux at the top of the atmosphere. WGI

Reference Data

See Baseline.

Renewable energy (RE)

Any form of energy from solar, geophys-ical, or biological sources that is replenished by natural processes at a rate that equals or exceeds its rate of use. WG III

Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs)

Scenarios that include time series of emissons and concentrations of the full suite of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and aerosols and chemically active gases, as well as land use/land cover (Moss et al., 2008). The word representative signifies that each RCP provides only one of many possible scenarios that would lead to the specific radiative forcing characteristics. The term pathway emphasises that not only the long-term concentration levels are of interest, but also the trajectory taken over time to reach that outcome (Moss et al., 2010). WGIII

RCPs usually refer to the portion of the concentration pathway extending up to 2100, for which Integrated Assessment Models produced corresponding emission scenarios. Extended Concentration Pathways (ECPs) describe extensions of the RCPs from 2100 to 2500 that were calculated using simple rules generated by stakeholder consultations, and do not represent fully consistent scenarios.

Four RCPs produced from Integrated Assessment Models were selected from the published literature and are used in the Fifth IPCC Assessment as a basis for the climate predictions and projections presented in WGI AR5 Chapters 11 to 14:

RCP2.6 One pathway where radiative forcing peaks at approximately 3 W m-2 before 2100 and then declines (the corresponding ECP assuming constant emissions after 2100);

RCP4.5 and RCP6.0 Two intermediate stabilisation pathways in which radiative forcing is stabilised at approximately 4.5 W m-2 and 6.0 W m-2 after 2100 (the corresponding ECPs assuming constant concentrations after 2150);

RCP8.5 One high pathway for which radiative forcing reaches greater than 8.5 W m-2 by 2100 and continues to rise for some amount of time (the corresponding ECP assuming constant emissions after 2100 and constant concentrations after 2250).


In climate models, this term refers to the physical distance (meters or degrees) between each point on the grid used to compute the equations. Temporal resolution refers to the time step or time elapsed between each model computation of the equations. WGI