Climate Sensitivity Estimated from Temperature Reconstructions of the Last Glacial Maximum

Andreas Schmittner, Nathan M. Urban, Jeremy D. Shakun, Natalie M. Mahowald, Peter U Clark, Patrick J. Bartlein, Alan C. Mix, Antoni Rosell-Mele

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    190 Citations (Scopus)


    Assessing the impact of future anthropogenic carbon emissions is currently impeded by uncertainties in our knowledge of equilibrium climate sensitivity to atmospheric carbon dioxide doubling. Previous studies suggest 3 kelvin (K) as the best estimate, 2 to 4.5 K as the 66% probability range, and nonzero probabilities for much higher values, the latter implying a small chance of high-impact climate changes that would be difficult to avoid. Here, combining extensive sea and land surface temperature reconstructions from the Last Glacial Maximum with climate model simulations, we estimate a lower median (2.3 K) and reduced uncertainty (1.7 to 2.6 K as the 66% probability range, which can be widened using alternate assumptions or data subsets). Assuming that paleoclimatic constraints apply to the future, as predicted by our model, these results imply a lower probability of imminent extreme climatic change than previously thought.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1385-1388
    Issue number6061
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - Dec 2011


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