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Earth System Dynamics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/esdd-2-531-2011
© Author(s) 2011. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/esdd-2-531-2011
© Author(s) 2011. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

ESD Reviews 15 Sep 2011

ESD Reviews | 15 Sep 2011

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It has been under review for the journal Earth System Dynamics (ESD). The revised manuscript was not accepted.

Climate sensitivity in the Anthropocene

M. Previdi1, B. G. Liepert2, D. T Peteet1,3, J. Hansen3,4, D. J Beerling5, A. J. Broccoli6, S. Frolking7, J. N Galloway8, M. Heimann9, C. Le Quéré10,11, S. Levitus12, and V. Ramaswamy13 M. Previdi et al.
  • 1Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades, NY 10964, USA
  • 2NorthWest Research Associates, Redmond, WA 98052, USA
  • 3NASA/Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, NY 10025, USA
  • 4Columbia University Earth Institute, New York, NY 10027, USA
  • 5Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK
  • 6Department of Environmental Sciences, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08901, USA
  • 7Complex Systems Research Center, Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans and Space, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH 03824, USA
  • 8Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22904, USA
  • 9Max-Planck-Institute for Biogeochemistry, 07745 Jena, Germany
  • 10School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7TJ, UK
  • 11British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, BC3 0ET, UK
  • 12National Oceanographic Data Center, NOAA, Silver Spring, MD 20910, USA
  • 13Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, NOAA, Princeton, NJ 08540, USA

Abstract. Understanding the sensitivity of Earth's climate to an imposed external forcing is one of the great challenges in science and a critical component of efforts to avoid dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Climate sensitivity (or equilibrium global surface warming) to a doubling of atmospheric CO2 has long been estimated to be about 3 °C, considering only fast climate feedbacks associated with increases in water vapor, decreases in sea ice, and changes in clouds. However, evidence from Earth's history suggests that slower surface albedo feedbacks due to vegetation change and melting of Greenland and Antarctica can come into play on the timescales of interest to humans, which could increase the sensitivity to significantly higher values, as much as 6 °C. Even higher sensitivity may result as present-day land and ocean carbon sinks begin to lose their ability to sequester anthropogenic CO2 in the coming decades. The evolving view of climate sensitivity in the Anthropocene is therefore one in which a wider array of Earth system feedbacks are recognized as important. Since these feedbacks are overwhelmingly positive, the sensitivity is likely to be higher than has traditionally been assumed.

M. Previdi et al.
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Interactive discussion
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Status: closed
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M. Previdi et al.
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