NEW REPORT - THE WARMER THE PLANET GETS, THE FASTER IT WARMS UP

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13 november 2016

Warming up: new research points to a more sensitive climate to rising CO2

Peter Hannam, Sydney Morning Herald, November 13, 2016

Climate models may be underestimating how sensitive the planet is to rising greenhouse gas levels, with new research suggesting the pace of global warming is about to quicken.

Scientists have long known that adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere warms the globe. The so-called greenhouse gas effect, though, may be amplified the higher the mercury climbs, according to a study published recently in Science Advances.

The researchers examined seabed sediment and ice cores to determine how the climate had changed during the past eight glacial cycles, covering about 784,000 years. They then used air bubbles trapped in those ice cores to calculate the Earth's energy balance – whether the planet was adding or losing heat to space – over the period.

Axel Timmermann, a co-author of the study and professor at the University of Hawaii, said they found the climate's response was disproportionate as temperatures rose.

Previous studies, including those used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), tended to underestimate the impact shrinking ice sheets and other changes to land had on how much heat was radiated back to space as conditions warmed.

"Glacial climates are less sensitive to CO2 changes," Professor Timmermann told Fairfax Media. "Warm climates are two times more sensitive to radiative forcing changes."

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