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Earth System Dynamics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union

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© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Short communication
02 Mar 2017
Review status
A revision of this discussion paper was accepted for the journal Earth System Dynamics (ESD) and is expected to appear here in due course.
Flexible parameter-sparse global temperature time-profiles that stabilise at 1.5 °C and 2.0 °C
Chris Huntingford1, Hui Yang2,1, Anna Harper3, Peter M. Cox3, Nic Gedney4, Eleanor J. Burke5, Jason A. Lowe5, Garry Hayman1, Bill J. Collins6, Stephen M. Smith7, and Ed Comyn-Platt1 1Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Benson Lane, Wallingford, Oxfordshire, OX10 8BB, UK
2Department of Ecology, School of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Peking University, Beijing, P. R. China
3College of Engineering and Environmental Science, Laver Building, University of Exeter, North Park Road, Exeter, EX4 4QF, UK
4Met Office Hadley Centre, Joint Centre for Hydrometeorological Research, Maclean Building, Wallingford, OX10 8BB, UK
5Met Office, FitzRoy Road, Exeter, Devon, EX1 3PB, UK
6Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Earley Gate, PO Box 243, Reading, RG6 6BB, UK
7Committee on Climate Change, 7 Holbein Place, London, SW1W 8NR, UK
Abstract. The UNFCCC Paris climate meeting of December 2015 committed to holding the rise in global average temperature to below 2.0 °C above pre-industrial levels. It also committed to pursue efforts to limit warming to 1.5 °C. This leads to two key questions. First, what extent of reductions in emissions will achieve either target? Second, given emissions cuts to achieve the lower target may be especially difficult to achieve, then what is the benefit from reduced climate impacts by keeping warming at or below 1.5 °C? To provide answers climate model simulations need to follow trajectories consistent with these global temperature limits. This implies operating models in an invertible form, to make model-specific estimates of greenhouse gas (GHG) concentration pathways consistent with prescribed temperature profiles. Further inversion derives related emissions pathways for these concentrations. For this to happen, and to enable climate research centres to compare GHG concentrations and emissions estimates, common temperature trajectory scenarios are required. Here we define algebraic curves which asymptote to a stabilised limit, while also matching the magnitude and gradient of recent warming levels. The curves are deliberately parameter-sparse, needing prescription of just two parameters plus the final temperature. Yet despite this simplicity they can allow for temperature overshoot and for generational changes where more effort occurs to decelerate warming change by future generations. The curves capture temperature profiles from the existing rcp2.6 scenario model projections, which have warming amounts towards the lower levels of those that society is discussing.

Citation: Huntingford, C., Yang, H., Harper, A., Cox, P. M., Gedney, N., Burke, E. J., Lowe, J. A., Hayman, G., Collins, B. J., Smith, S. M., and Comyn-Platt, E.: Flexible parameter-sparse global temperature time-profiles that stabilise at 1.5 °C and 2.0 °C, Earth Syst. Dynam. Discuss.,, in review, 2017.
Chris Huntingford et al.
Chris Huntingford et al.


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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Recent UNFCCC climate meetings have placed much emphasis on constraining global warming to remain below two degrees. The 2015 Paris meeting went further and gave an aspiration to fulfil a 1.5 degrees threshold. We provide a flexible set of algebraic global temperature profiles that stabilise to either target. This will potentially allow the climate research community to estimate local climatic implications for these temperature profiles, along with emissions trajectories to fulfil them.
Recent UNFCCC climate meetings have placed much emphasis on constraining global warming to...