Skip to main content
×
Home
    • Aa
    • Aa

Climate sensitivity

  • Roy Thompson (a1)
Abstract
ABSTRACT

Earth has been habitable through most of its history, but the anthropogenically mediated greenhouse effect, if sufficiently strong, can threaten Earth's long-standing equability. This paper's main aim is to determine the strength of the anthropogenic greenhouse effect (the climate sensitivity) from observational data and basic physics alone, without recourse to the parameterisations of earth-system models and their inevitable uncertainties. A key finding is that the sensitivity can be constrained by harmonising historical records of land and ocean temperatures with observations of potential climate-change drivers in a non-steady state, energy-balance equation via a least-squares optimisation. The global temperature increase, for a CO2 doubling, is found to lie (95 % confidence limits) between 3.0oC and 6.3oC, with a best estimate of +4oC. Under a business-as-usual scenario, which assumes that there will be no significant change in people's attitudes and priorities, Earth's surface temperature is forecast to rise by 7.9oC over the land, and by 3.6oC over the oceans, by the year 2100. Global temperature rise has slowed in the last decade, leading some to question climate predictions of substantial 21st-Century warming. A formal runs test, however, shows that the recent slowdown is part of the normal behaviour of the climate system.

Copyright
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

T. Andrews , J. M. Gregory , M. J. Webb & K. E. Taylor 2012. Forcing, feedbacks and climate sensitivity in CMIP5 coupled atmosphere-ocean climate models. Geophysical Research Letters 39(9). doi: 10.1029/2012GL051607.

N. G. Andronova & M. E. Schlesinger 2001. Objective estimation of the probability density function for climate sensitivity. Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres (1984–2012) 106(D19), 22605–11.

O. Boucher & M. Pham 2002. History of sulfate aerosol radiative forcings. Geophysical Research Letters 29(9), 22-122-4.

G. S. Callendar 1949. Can carbon dioxide influence climate? Weather 4(10), 310–14.

R. J. Charlson , S. E. Schwartz , J. M. Hales , R. D. Cess , J. J. Coakley Jr., J. E. Hansen & D. J. Hofmann 1992. Climate forcing by anthropogenic aerosols. Science 255(5043), 423–30.

M. Eby , K. Zickfeld , A. Montenegro , D. Archer , K. J. Meissner & A. J. Weaver 2009. Lifetime of anthropogenic climate change: millennial time scales of potential CO2 and surface temperature perturbations. Journal of Climate 22(2), 501–11.

D. M. Etheridge , L. P. Steele , R. L. Langenfelds , R. J. Francey , J. M. Barnola & V. I. Morgan 1996. Natural and anthropogenic changes in atmospheric CO2 over the last 1000 years from air in Antarctic ice and firn. Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres (1984–2012) 101(D2), 4115–28.

G. Feulner , S. Rahmstorf , A. Levermann & S. Volkwardt 2013. On the Origin of the Surface Air Temperature Difference between the Hemispheres in Earth's Present-Day Climate. Journal of Climate 26(18), 7136–50.

P. M. Forster & J. M. Gregory 2006. The climate sensitivity and its components diagnosed from Earth radiation budget data. Journal of Climate 19(1), 3952.

G. Foster , J. D. Annan , G. A. Schmidt & M. E. Mann 2008. Comment on “Heat capacity, time constant and sensitivity of Earth's climate system” by S. E. Schwartz. Journal of Geophysical Research 113, D15102. doi:10.1029/2007JD009373.

J. M. Gregory , W. J. Ingram , M. A. Palmer , G. S. Jones , P. A. Stott , R. B. Thorpe , J. A. Lowe , T. C. Johns & K. D. Williams 2004. A new method for diagnosing radiative forcing and climate sensitivity. Geophysical Research Letters 31(3), L03205, 14.

J. D. Haigh 2002. Radiative forcing of climate change. Weather 57(8), 278–83.

J. Hansen , A. Lacis , D. Rind , G. Russell , P. Stone , I. Fung , R. Ruedy & J. Lerner 1984. Climate sensitivity: Analysis of feedback mechanisms. In J. E. Hansen & T. Takahashi (eds) Climate Processes and Climate Sensitivity. AGU Geophysical Monograph 29 (Maurice Ewing Vol. 5), 130–63. Washington, D. C.: American Geophysical Union.

J. Hansen , M. Sato , P. Kharecha & K. V. Schuckmann 2011. Earth's energy imbalance and implications. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 11(24), 13421–49.

T. Hastie & R. Tibshirani 1986. Generalized additive models. Statistical Science 1(3), 297310.

I. M. Held 2013. Climate science: the cause of the pause. Nature 501(7467), 318–19.

IPCC. 2001. Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. [ J. T. Houghton , Y. Ding , D. J. Griggs , M. Noguer , P. J. van der Linden , X. Dai , K. Maskell & C. A. Johnson (eds)]. Cambridge, UK & New York: Cambridge University Press. 881 pp.

P. D. Jones , T. M. L. Wigley & P. M. Kelly 1982. Variations in surface air temperatures: Part 1. Northern Hemisphere, 1881–1980. Monthly Weather Review 110(2), 5970.

F. Joos , I. C. Prentice , S. Sitch , R. Meyer , G. Hooss , G. K. Plattner , S. Gerbe & K. Hasselmann 2001. Global warming feedbacks on terrestrial carbon uptake under the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) emission scenarios. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 15(4), 891907.

C. D. Keeling 1960. The concentration and isotopic abundances of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Tellus 12, 200–03.

R. Knutti , S. Kraehenmann , D. J. Frame & M. R. Allen 2008. Comment on “Heat capacity, time constant, and sensitivity of Earth's climate system” by S. E. Schwartz. Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres (1984–2012) 113(D15), D15103, 16.

F. H. Lambert , M. J. Webb & M. M. Joshi 2011. The relationship between land–ocean surface temperature contrast and radiative forcing. Journal of Climate 24(13), 3239–56.

J. Lean , J. Beer & R. Bradley 1995. Reconstruction of solar irradiance since 1610: implications for climate change. Geophysical Research Letters 22(23), 3195–98.

S. Manabe & R. T. Wetherald 1975. The effects of doubling the CO2 concentration on the climate of a general circulation model. Journal of Atmospheric Sciences 32(1), 315.

T. Masters 2014. Observational estimate of climate sensitivity from changes in the rate of ocean heat uptake and comparison to CMIP5 models. Climate Dynamics 42(7–8), 2173–81.

G. A. Meehl , C. Covey , K. E. Taylor , T. Delworth , R. J. Stouffer , M. Latif , B. McAvaney & J. F. Mitchell 2007. The WCRP CMIP3 multimodel dataset: A new era in climate change research. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 88(9), 1383–94.

M. Meinshausen , S. J. Smith , K. Calvin , J. S. Daniel , M. L. T. Kainuma , J. F. Lamarque , K. Matsumoto , S. A Montzka , S. C. B. Raper , K. Riahi , A. Thomson , G. J. M. Velders & D. P. P. Van Vuuren 2011. The RCP greenhouse gas concentrations and their extensions from 1765 to 2300. Climatic change 109(1-2), 213–41.

J. F. B. Mitchell , T. C. Johns , J. M. Gregory & S. F. B. Tett 1995. Climate response to increasing levels of greenhouse gases and sulphate aerosols. Nature 376, 501–04.

D. M. Murphy , S. Solomon , R. W. Portmann , K. H. Rosenlof , P. M. Forster & T. Wong 2009. An observationally based energy balance for the Earth since 1950. Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres (1984–2012) 114, D17107.

G. Myhre , A. Myhre & F. Storda 2001. Historical evolution of radiative forcing of climate. Atmosphere Environment 35, 2361–73.

G. P. Peters , R. M. Andrew , T. Boden , J. G. Canadell , P. Ciais , C. Le Quéré , G. Marland , M. R. Raupach & C. Wilson 2013. The challenge to keep global warming below 2oC. Nature Climate Change 3(1), 46.

R. T. Pierrehumbert 2014. Short-lived climate pollution. Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences 42(1), 341–79.

J. C. Pinheiro & D. M. Bates 2000. Mixed-Effects Models in S and S-PLUS. New York: Springer-Verlag.

M. E. Raymo , B. Grant , M. Horowitz & G. H. Rau 1996. Mid-Pliocene warmth: stronger greenhouse and stronger conveyor. Marine Micropaleontology 27(1–4), 313–26.

C. D. Roberts , M. D. Palmer , D. McNeall , & M. Collins 2015. Quantifying the likelihood of a continued hiatus in global warming. Nature Climate Change 5, 337–42.

S. E. Schwartz 2007. Heat capacity, time constant and sensitivity of Earth's climate system. Journal of Geophysical Research 112, D24S05. doi:10.1029/2007JD008746.

D. T. Shindell 2014. Inhomogeneous forcing and transient climate sensitivity. Nature Climate Change 4, 274–77.

D. A. Stainforth , T. Aina , C. Christensen , M. Collins , N. Faull , D. J. Frame , J. A. Kettleborough , S. Knight , A. Martin , J. M. Murphy , C. Piani , D. Sexton , L. A. Smith , R. A. Spicer , A. J. Thorpe and M. R. Allen 2005. Uncertainty in predictions of the climate response to rising levels of greenhouse gases. Nature 433(7024). 403–06.

D. Stevenson 2015. Atmospheric chemistry: Climate's chemical sensitivity. Nature Climate Change 5, 2122.

K. E. Taylor , R. J. Stouffer & G. A. Meehl 2012. An overview of CMIP5 and the experiment design. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 93(4), 485–98.

R. S. Tol & A. F. De Vos 1998. A Bayesian statistical analysis of the enhanced greenhouse effect. Climatic Change 38(1), 87112.

N. M. Urban & K. Keller 2009. Complementary observational constraints on climate sensitivity. Geophysical Research Letters 36(4), L04708. doi:10.1029/2008GL036457

T. M. Wigley & B. D. Santer 2013. A probabilistic quantification of the anthropogenic component of twentieth century global warming. Climate Dynamics 40(5–6), 1087–102.

Y. G. Zhang , M. Pagani , Z. Liu , S. M. Bohaty & R. DeConto 2013. A 40-million-year history of atmospheric CO2. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences 371, 20130096.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Earth and Environmental Science Transactions of The Royal Society of Edinburgh
  • ISSN: 1755-6910
  • EISSN: 1755-6929
  • URL: /core/journals/earth-and-environmental-science-transactions-of-royal-society-of-edinburgh
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Keywords:

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 1
Total number of PDF views: 34 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 185 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 24th June 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.