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The inconstancy of the transient climate response parameter under increasing CO₂

Gregory, J. M., Andrews, T. and Good, P. (2015) The inconstancy of the transient climate response parameter under increasing CO₂. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 373. 20140417. ISSN 1364-503X

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In the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5), the model-mean increase in global mean surface air temperature T under the 1pctCO2 scenario (atmospheric CO2 increasing at 1% yr−1) during the second doubling of CO2 is 40% larger than the transient climate response (TCR), i.e. the increase in T during the first doubling. We identify four possible contributory effects. First, the surface climate system loses heat less readily into the ocean beneath as the latter warms. The model spread in the thermal coupling between the upper and deep ocean largely explains the model spread in ocean heat uptake efficiency. Second, CO2 radiative forcing may rise more rapidly than logarithmically with CO2 concentration. Third, the climate feedback parameter may decline as the CO2 concentration rises. With CMIP5 data, we cannot distinguish the second and third possibilities. Fourth, the climate feedback parameter declines as time passes or T rises; in 1pctCO2, this effect is less important than the others. We find that T projected for the end of the twenty-first century correlates more highly with T at the time of quadrupled CO2 in 1pctCO2 than with the TCR, and we suggest that the TCR may be underestimated from observed climate change.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Faculty of Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > NCAS
ID Code:41303
Publisher:Royal Society Publishing

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