Making sense of palaeoclimate sensitivity

Nature. 2012 Nov 29;491(7426):683-91. doi: 10.1038/nature11574.


Many palaeoclimate studies have quantified pre-anthropogenic climate change to calculate climate sensitivity (equilibrium temperature change in response to radiative forcing change), but a lack of consistent methodologies produces a wide range of estimates and hinders comparability of results. Here we present a stricter approach, to improve intercomparison of palaeoclimate sensitivity estimates in a manner compatible with equilibrium projections for future climate change. Over the past 65 million years, this reveals a climate sensitivity (in K W(-1) m(2)) of 0.3-1.9 or 0.6-1.3 at 95% or 68% probability, respectively. The latter implies a warming of 2.2-4.8 K per doubling of atmospheric CO(2), which agrees with IPCC estimates.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Calibration
  • Carbon Dioxide / analysis
  • Climate*
  • Environmental Policy
  • Feedback
  • Global Warming / history
  • Global Warming / statistics & numerical data
  • History, Ancient
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Probability
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Temperature*
  • Time Factors


  • Carbon Dioxide