Natural unforced variability in global mean surface air temperature (GMST) can mask or exaggerate human-caused global warming, and thus a complete understanding of this variability is highly desirable. Significant progress has been made in elucidating the magnitude and physical origins of present-day unforced GMST variability, but it has remained unclear how such variability may change as the climate warms.

Absorbing aerosols affect global-mean precipitation primarily in two ways. They give rise to stronger shortwave atmospheric heating, which acts to suppress precipitation. Depending on the top-of-the-atmosphere radiative flux change, they can also warm up the surface with a tendency to increase precipitation.