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Equilibrium climate sensitivity in light of observations over the warming hiatus

Journal article
Authors Daniel J.A. Johansson
B. C. O'Neill
C. Tebaldi
Olle Häggström
Published in Nature Climate Change
Volume 5
Issue 5
Pages 449-453
ISSN 1758-678X
Publication year 2015
Published at Department of Mathematical Sciences, Mathematical Statistics
Pages 449-453
Language en
Links dx.doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2573
Subject categories Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences, Environmental Sciences

Abstract

A key uncertainty in projecting future climate change is the magnitude of equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS), that is, the eventual increase in global annual average surface temperature in response to a doubling of atmospheric CO2 concentration. The lower bound of the likely range for ECS given in the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5; refs 1,2) was revised downwards to 1.5 degrees C, from 2 degrees C in its previous report(3), mainly as an effect of considering observations over the warming hiatus-the period of slowdown of global average temperature increase since the early 2000s. Here we analyse how estimates of ECS change as observations accumulate over time and estimate the contribution of potential causes to the hiatus. We find that including observations over the hiatus reduces the most likely value for ECS from 2.8 degrees C to 2.5 degrees C, but that the lower bound of the 90% range remains stable around 2 degrees C. We also find that the hiatus is primarily attributable to El Nino/Southern Oscillation-related variability and reduced solar forcing.

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