Climate Response Times: Dependence on Climate Sensitivity and Ocean Mixing

Science  30 Aug 1985:
Vol. 229, Issue 4716, pp. 857-859
DOI: 10.1126/science.229.4716.857


The factors that determine climate response times were investigated with simple models and scaling statements. The response times are particularly sensitive to (i) the amount that the climate response is amplified by feedbacks and (ii) the representation of ocean mixing. If equilibrium climate sensitivity is 3°C or greater for a doubling of the carbon dioxide concentration, then most of the expected warming attributable to trace gases added to the atmosphere by man probably has not yet occurred. This yet to be realized warming calls into question a policy of "wait and see" regarding the issue of how to deal with increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide and other trace gases.