Climate sensitivity may be higher than many think, researchers say

Schlesinger said. "Our results show that the probability density function very strongly depends on which radiative forcing factors have actually been at work during the period of the temperature measurements," he said. "At present, the most likely scenario is one that includes anthropogenic sulfate aerosol forcing but not solar variation. Although the value of the climate sensitivity in that case is most uncertain, there is a 70 percent chance that it exceeds the maximum IPCC value. This is not good news."

One way to reduce the uncertainty of which probability distribution is the appropriate one to use in impact and policy studies is "to determine whether the suns irradiance has actually changed during the past 150 years," Andronova said. "Another way would be to consider the net radiative forcing of all the anthropogenic aerosols, not just the sulfate aerosol."


Contact: James E. Kloeppel
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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