Revised projection of future greenhouse warming

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Abstract

FOR the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report1, using a simple climate/ocean model, we made projections of the greenhouse warming to 2100. Projections were made for four greenhouse-gas scenarios, whose radiative effects in 2100, expressed in terms of an equivalent amount of CO2, ranged from 2 to 5.5 times the pre-industrial CO2 concentration. The projected global warming in 2100 for these scenarios, relative to 1990, ranged from 0.62–2.31 °C for the minimum assumed CO2-doubling temperature sensitivity, ΔT2x = 1.5 °C, to 1.61–5.15 °C for the maximum sensitivity ΔT2x = 4.5 °C. Here we broaden these projections to include a recently suggested lower sensitivity, ΔT2x = 0.5 °C. We also revise all projections by prescribing, using the results of our analysis of simulations by a coupled atmosphere-ocean general circulation model, a lower value for a key parameter of the simple ocean model, II, which indicates the warming of the polar ocean relative to the warming of the non-polar ocean. We find that, for any value of ΔT2x, the atmospheric temperature increases more rapidly with time as a consequence of the reduction in II. We also find that a delay of ten years in initiating a 20-year transition from the IPCC 'business-as-usuaP scenario to any other IPCC scenario has only a small effect on the projected warming in 2100, regardless of the value of ΔT2x. This indicates that the penalty for a 10-year delay is small.

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    1. Houghton, J.T., Jenkins, G.J.& Ephraums, J.J. (eds) Climate Change: The IPCC Scientific Assessment (Cambridge University Press, 1990). 2. Hoffert, M. I., Callegari, A. J. & Hsieh, C.-T. J. geophys. Res. 85, 6667-6679 (1980). 3. Hoffert, M. I. & Flannery, B. P. in Projecting the Climatic Effects of Increasing Carbon Dioxide (eds MacCracken, M. C. & Luther, F. M.), 149-190 (US Department of Energy, Washington, DC 1985). 4. Schlesinger, M. E. & Jiang, X. J. dim. 3, 1297-1315 (1990). 5. Schlesinger, M. E. & Mitchell, J. F. B. Rev. Geophys. 25, 760-798 (1987). 6. Lindzen, R. S. Bull. Am. meteorol. Soc. 71, 288-299 (1990). 7. Wigley, T. M. L. & Raper, S. C. B. in Greenhouse-gas-induced Climatic Change: A Critical Appraisal of Simulations and Observations (ed. Schlesinger, M. E.) 471-482 (Elsevier, Amsterdam, 1991). 8. Charlson, R. J., Langner, J & Rodhe, H. Nature 348, 22 (1990).

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Schiesinger, M., Jiang, X. Revised projection of future greenhouse warming. Nature 350, 219–221 (1991) doi:10.1038/350219a0

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