Research ArticleCLIMATOLOGY

Slow climate mode reconciles historical and model-based estimates of climate sensitivity

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Science Advances  05 Jul 2017:
Vol. 3, no. 7, e1602821
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1602821

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The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Report widened the equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS) range from 2° to 4.5°C to an updated range of 1.5° to 4.5°C in order to account for the lack of consensus between estimates based on models and historical observations. The historical ECS estimates range from 1.5° to 3°C and are derived assuming a linear radiative response to warming. A Bayesian methodology applied to 24 models, however, documents curvature in the radiative response to warming from an evolving contribution of interannual to centennial modes of radiative response. Centennial modes display stronger amplifying feedbacks and ultimately contribute 28 to 68% (90% credible interval) of equilibrium warming, yet they comprise only 1 to 7% of current warming. Accounting for these unresolved centennial contributions brings historical records into agreement with model-derived ECS estimates.

  • Climate Sensitivity
  • Radiative Forcing
  • Climate Feedbacks
  • Bayesian Inference

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