Seminar Abstract

Marcia B. Baker

Thursday, February 7, 2008
1:30-3:00

Why is climate sensitivity so unpredictable?

Uncertainties in projections of future climate change have not lessened substantially in past decades. Both models and observations yield broad probability distributions for long-term increases in global mean temperature expected from the doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide, with small but finite probabilities of very large increases. We show that the shape of these probability distributions is an inevitable and general consequence of the nature of the climate system, and we derive a simple analytic form for the shape that fits recent published distributions very well. We show that the breadth of the distribution and, in particular, the probability of large temperature increases are relatively insensitive to decreases in uncertainties associated with the underlying climate processes.

Speaker bio:

Marcia Baker is Emeritus Professor in the UW Dept. of Earth and Space Sciences.