Making sense of palaeoclimate sensitivity

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PALAEOSENS Project-Members, , Rohling, E. J. , Sluijs, A. , Dijkstra, H. A. , Köhler, P. , van de Wal, R. S. W. , von der Heydt, A. S. , Beerling, D. J. , Berger, A. , Bijl, P. K. , Crucifix, M. , DeConto, R. , Drijfhout, S. S. , Fedorov, A. , Foster, G. L. , Ganopolski, A. , Hansen, J. , Hönisch, B. , Hooghiemstra, H. , Huber, M. , Huybers, P. , Knutti, R. , Lea, D. W. , Lourens, L. J. , Lunt, D. , Masson-Demotte, V. , Medina-Elizalde, M. , Otto-Bliesner, B. , Pagani, M. , Pälike, H. , Renssen, H. , Royer, D. L. , Siddall, M. , Valdes, P. , Zachos, J. C. and Zeebe, R. E. (2012): Making sense of palaeoclimate sensitivity , Nature, 491 (7426), pp. 683-691 . doi: 10.1038/nature11574
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Many palaeoclimate studies have quantified pre-anthropogenic climate change to calculate climate sensitivity (equilibrium temperature change in response to radiative forcing change), but a lack of consistent methodologies produces a wide range of estimates and hinders comparability of results. Here we present a stricter approach, to improve intercomparison of palaeoclimate sensitivity estimates in a manner compatible with equilibrium projections for future climate change. Over the past 65 million years, this reveals a climate sensitivity (in K W−1 m2) of 0.3–1.9 or 0.6–1.3 at 95% or 68% probability, respectively. The latter implies a warming of 2.2–4.8 K per doubling of atmospheric CO2, which agrees with IPCC estimates.

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