Thursday, July 6, 2017

Why the climate is more sensitive to carbon dioxide than weather records suggest

One of the key questions about climate change is the strength of the greenhouse effect. In scientific terms this is described as “climate sensitivity”. It’s defined as the amount Earth’s average temperature will ultimately rise in response to a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.

A new paper improves our estimate of the climate’s sensitivity to carbon dioxide.
Climate sensitivity has been hard to pin down accurately. Climate models give a range of 1.5-4.5 per doubling of CO, whereas historical weather observations suggest a smaller range of 1.5-3.0 per doubling of CO.

In a new study published in Science Advances, Cristian Proistosescu and Peter J. Huybers of Harvard University resolve this discrepancy, by showing that the models are likely to be right.

According to their statistical analysis, historical weather observations reveal only a portion of the planet’s full response to rising CO levels. The true climate sensitivity will only become manifest on a time scale of centuries, due to effects that researchers call “slow climate feedbacks”.

Read the thoughts on The Conversation of an Earth and paleo-climate scientist, from the Australian National University, Andrew Glikson - “Why the climate is more sensitive to carbon dioxide than weather records suggest.”

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