What is it about?

‘Climate sensitivity’ means how much effect on our temperature different changes in our climate system will have. For example, how much warmer will our climate get if there is twice as much carbon dioxide in our atmosphere? ‘Climate feedbacks’ are processes that either strengthen or weaken other changes in our climate. Feedbacks might include clouds, snow or ice, all of which reflect light (and therefore heat) back to the sun. Climate sensitivity is affected by climate feedbacks. Therefore, it is very important that any climate change study takes climate feedbacks into account. Computer programs for modeling climate change include simulations of the effects climate feedbacks might have – but different climate models simulate climate feedbacks differently. The lack of certainty around feedbacks makes it harder to estimate how much warming will result from increases in carbon dioxide.

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Why is it important?

This study showed that we are getting better at understanding things like clouds and water vapour – the processes behind climate feedbacks. This means that our attempts to model the effect of climate feedbacks are becoming more realistic, which helps to give us more confidence in our overall climate predictions. KEY TAKEAWAY: The science behind climate predictions is becoming less uncertain.

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This page is a summary of: How Well Do We Understand and Evaluate Climate Change Feedback Processes?, Journal of Climate, August 2006, American Meteorological Society,
DOI: 10.1175/jcli3819.1.
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