A tighter constraint on Earth-system sensitivity from long-term temperature and carbon-cycle observations

Tony E. Wong, Ying Cui, Dana L. Royer, Klaus Keller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The long-term temperature response to a given change in CO2 forcing, or Earth-system sensitivity (ESS), is a key parameter quantifying our understanding about the relationship between changes in Earth’s radiative forcing and the resulting long-term Earth-system response. Current ESS estimates are subject to sizable uncertainties. Long-term carbon cycle models can provide a useful avenue to constrain ESS, but previous efforts either use rather informal statistical approaches or focus on discrete paleoevents. Here, we improve on previous ESS estimates by using a Bayesian approach to fuse deep-time CO2 and temperature data over the last 420 Myrs with a long-term carbon cycle model. Our median ESS estimate of 3.4 °C (2.6-4.7 °C; 5-95% range) shows a narrower range than previous assessments. We show that weaker chemical weathering relative to the a priori model configuration via reduced weatherable land area yields better agreement with temperature records during the Cretaceous. Research into improving the understanding about these weathering mechanisms hence provides potentially powerful avenues to further constrain this fundamental Earth-system property.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3173
JournalNature Communications
Volume12
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2021

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