State-dependence of climate sensitivity: attractor constraints and palaeoclimate regimes
Dynamics and Statistics of the Climate System
Oxford University Press (OUP)
© The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS) is a key predictor of climate change. However, it is not very well constrained, either by climate models or by observational data. The reasons for this include strong internal variability and forcing on many time scales. In practise this means that the 'equilibrium' will only be relative to fixing the slow feedback processes before comparing palaeoclimate sensitivity estimates with estimates from model simulations. In addition, information from the late Pleistocene ice age cycles indicates that the climate cycles between cold and warm regimes, and the climate sensitivity varies considerably between regime because of fast feedback processes changing relative strength and time scales over one cycle. In this paper we consider climate sensitivity for quite general climate dynamics. Using a conceptual Earth system model of Gildor and Tziperman (2001) (with Milankovich forcing and dynamical ocean biogeochemistry) we explore various ways of quantifying the state-dependence of climate sensitivity from unperturbed and perturbed model time series. Even without considering any perturbations, we suggest that climate sensitivity can be usefully thought of as a distribution that quantifies variability within the 'climate attractor' and where there is a strong dependence on climate state and more specificially on the 'climate regime' where fast processes are approximately in equilibrium. We also consider perturbations by instantaneous doubling of CO$_2$ and similarly find a strong dependence on the climate state using our approach.
This work was carried out under the program of the Netherlands Earth System Science Centre (NESSC), financially supported by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) in the Netherlands. AH thanks CliMathNet (sponsored by EPSRC) for travel support to meetings that facilitated this work.
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Vol. 1(1), article dzx001