Climate sensitivity

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Climate sensitivity stands for the amount of warming to be expected for every W/m2 of radiative forcing of climate. There are many urban myths about how climate sensitivity might be different for the future than it has been in the past. For example, some special focus groups would argue that climate sensitivity will be low in the future, and therefore that greenhouse gas forcing may not lead to much warming. Really? How would we know? And do we even know what climate sensitivity was in the past? Geological data can help to answer that question. For example, see: Rohling, E.J. et al., Sea surface and high-latitude temperature sensitivity to radiative forcing of climate over several glacial cycles. Journal of Climate, 25, 1635-1656, 2012. Or for theoretical background and a wide-ranging synthesis, see: PALAEOSENS Project Members, Making sense of palaeoclimate sensitivity. Nature, 491, 683–691, 2012.

We are currently in a major effort to increase the spatial density of records that span several ice-age cycles, to obtain better-defined estimates of global mean temperature change. In particular, we are working on unique cores from large swathes of the world ocean that have to date been insufficiently studied. The plan is to work out new sea-surface temperature records with well-defined chronologies. This sounds easier than it is, but it is definitely feasible.

Have you got an interest in understanding the temperature variability on Earth relative to the radiative forcing of climate? Are you meticulous, interested in lab-work as well as synthesis and interpretation, and capable of thinking outside the box? Then email us (Prof. Eelco J. Rohling, Dr. Gianluca Marino)!

We can support projects on this topic at Honours, MSc, and PhD level.


Updated:  24 September 2018/Responsible Officer:  RSES Webmaster/Page Contact:  RSES Webmaster