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How low can ECS go?

A new paper in a journal called Earth and Space Science says that effective climate sensititivity could be as low as 1°C. Here's the abstract.
Estimates of 2xCO2 equilibrium climate sensitivity (EqCS) derive from running global climate models (GCMs) to equilibrium. Estimates of effective climate sensitivity (EfCS) are the corresponding quantities obtained using transient GCM output or observations. The EfCS approach uses an accompanying energy balance model (EBM), the zero-dimensional model (ZDM) being standard. GCM values of EqCS and EfCS vary widely [IPCC range: (1.5, 4.5)°C] and have failed to converge over the past 35 years. Recently, attempts have been made to refine the EfCS approach by using two-zone (tropical/extratropical) EBMs. When applied using satellite radiation data, these give low and tightly-constrained EfCS values, in the neighbourhood of 1°C. These low observational EfCS/two-zone EBM values have been questioned because (a) they disagree with higher observational EfCS/ZDM values, and (b) the EfCS/two-zone EBM values given by GCMs are poorly correlated with the standard GCM sensitivity estimates. The validity of the low observational EfCS/two-zone EBM values is here explored, with focus on the limitations of the observational EfCS/ZDM approach, the disagreement between the GCM and observational radiative responses to surface temperature perturbations in the tropics, and on the modified EfCS values provided by an extended twozone EBM that includes an explicit parameterization of dynamical heat transport. The results support the low observational EfCS/two-zone EBM values, indicating that objections (a) and (b) to these values both need to be reconsidered. It is shown that in the EBM with explicit dynamical heat transport the traditional formulism of climate feedbacks can break down because of lack of additivity.

Predictably, our scientivist friends don't like it, but it's interesting to see that there are still a few hardy souls who are willing to say what they think.

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Reader Comments (142)

As theories go, it seems a far more accurate fit to observational data, than anything Climate Scientists have ever come up with.

I wonder why Climate Science aficionados don't like it.

I think a handy reference chart of actual data, historical data and theories would be really helpful for non climate scientists, like the President of the USA, Science experts at the BBC could do a balanced educational programme for children and adults, that might silence some of their critics.

May 13, 2016 at 9:25 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Meanwhile, in another paper, the correlation between the price of wheat and drawn cricket matches has been subject to another revision, as wheat growing in the Urals has now been taken into account...;-)

May 13, 2016 at 9:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterLeo Smith

How long will it be before the data are corrected to bring them in line with the models?

May 13, 2016 at 9:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

"Too many notes". How do you expect POTUS and Harrabin to understand this scientific mess of porridge? Where's the Josh cartoon to explain it all?

May 13, 2016 at 9:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Kendall

Now who would have thought that a model that includes real observational data and more realistic climatic zones would produce less alarming figures than the other ill-conceived rubbish that masquerades as "science"?

No wonder it has received the usual knee-jerk criticism.

It's a real bummer when reality intrudes.

May 13, 2016 at 10:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterBitter&Twisted

Yes, but 97% of the New Model Army (are said to) disagree which is why I believe arguing about the minutiae of climate modelling is an automatic fail.

May 13, 2016 at 10:19 AM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

Expect a one-sided 'rebuttal' paper out shortly. You know they're biased when EVERY paper that goes against AGW gospel is attacked and instantly 'rebutted'. There's never any part-agreement or balance simply because they don't want balance.

Btw...isn't it about time the IPCC's ridiculous 4.5C upper range figure was consigned to the history books? It bears NO resemblance to observations whatsoever.

May 13, 2016 at 10:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterCheshireRed

The idea that "effective climate sensititivity" "climate sensitivity" etc can be meaningfully computed seems to be accepted as valid by many people who are sceptical (ie regard as nonsense) most other aspects of "climate science".

How can this strange phenomenon be explained?

May 13, 2016 at 10:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

Martin A

That is a question I have asked a number of times on this forum. Thank you for framing it in a more mature diplomatic way than I was able to.

May 13, 2016 at 10:47 AM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

When will it be found zero and then negative?

May 13, 2016 at 10:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Silver

How low can ECS go? How about: zero. As others have pointed out, and Leo Smith quite effectively demonstrates, the probability that the two have no connection whatsoever could well be very high, but it is something that even “deniers” seem to … erm … deny.

However, this is proving a rich vein of new words, in the stupidisation (or should that be dumbification?) of English to try to make your paper look really, really thoughtful and important: we can now add “formulism” and “additivity” to our lexicon of impressivationalist words.

May 13, 2016 at 11:03 AM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

John, based on the graph from David Stockwell that Jaime found, it looks like climate sensitivity estimates are in a terrifying death spiral and could reach zero in about 2035.

May 13, 2016 at 11:05 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Martin A/ esmiff

Scepticism is not a "regard as nonsense". It is just doubting the hyperbolae & extrapolations of poorly supported claims based on ambiguous data and inadequate models. Manmade warming is quite plausible but is so far indistinguishable from natural variation to objective observers. Many folk may be sceptical just because their scepticism of the policy made them take a closer look at the science. Others are sceptical because of the circular reasoning of the IPCC (assuming nature cannot be warming the planet, then something must be and that something must be us, build those assumptions into a mathematical framework and then blame the model) plus the pessimism inherent in the unproven positive feedbacks which catastrophic warming - as opposed to beneficial warming - relies upon (the Lindzen position). What is often ignored in all the self-righteous angst of the climateers is that the mans effect on climate has been debated for over a hundred years and in most of that time scepticism was the consensus position (see Spencer Weart's opus, "The discovery of global warming") and for very good reasons. All that changed with 'accurate' measurements of CO2 from Mauna Loa and the unscientific splice to ice-core CO2 measurements to produce a hockey-stick. The effect of that scary extra CO2 has to be put into numbers somehow and the simplistic climate sensitivity estimate is the favoured route.

It is however still a valid exercise to use the alarmists own poor definitions, sparse (and often fudged) data and inadequate models and assumption of a higher-bound case where all warming is manmade and yet still find that there is no problem. Because if you don't produce actual numbers then it is a contest of who waves their hands more.

May 13, 2016 at 11:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG


Keep on telling it like it is Mr smiff, call a spade a spade and you can not go wrong (as long as you are not referring to minority groups).Why tip toe around people's pride and prejudice when the worst that can happen is that you get hit by a low flying rattle or two ^.^

May 13, 2016 at 11:28 AM | Registered CommenterDung

Computer modelling of the earth's climate is a valid activity carried out in private between consenting adults who understand its considerable limitations.

Using it to scare the human race into believing they or their children are in danger of drowning as a result of their own modern lifestyles is criminal.

Ironically, the climate science industry is largely populated by individuals who are in it precisely in order to fund their own modern lifestyles.

May 13, 2016 at 11:36 AM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

Because the real AGW during the fast warming 1980s and 1990s was actually from Asian aerosols reducing cloud albedo, we must face the reality of low CO2 ECS. It's kept very near zero** by the water cycle. The mechanism is obvious to anyone with knowledge of control systems!

**i suspect it is slightly negative from biofeedback.

May 13, 2016 at 11:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

Estimates of 2xCO2 equilibrium climate sensitivity (EqCS) derive from running global climate models (GCMs) to equilibrium.

The first question always has to be "So what exactly did you do to make the model come to equilibrium?

'Pure' models in much simpler systems, such as protein folding, will always leave the rails if run for long enough. So artificial constraints are added to prevent this happening. This of course involves a degree of subjective judgement as what the 'correct answer' will look like, and a protein will often already have a known structure from crystallography to use as guidance. But cli-sci has rather fewer credible equilibrium options. Fewer than one, in fact. Which allows everyone and their model dog to be a leading expert in climate.

May 13, 2016 at 11:48 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Fewer than one, in fact

Haha... a.k.a "zilch"*

* = the square of zero.

May 13, 2016 at 12:03 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

As many havr already said it could be as low as about zero. I've not read it but what do they surmise about say has 1940-1970 where CO2 was increasing and temperature decreasing? Also the many biys of evidence over the last few centuries (and more) where CO2 is assumed to be constant but temperature has changed.

May 13, 2016 at 12:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob Burton

Radical Rodent


An excellent word, Impressivationalist Ecologist has a certain ring to it perhaps a suitable description for a Knight of the Realm.

May 13, 2016 at 12:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

May 13, 2016 at 9:31 AM | Leo Smith

We haven't had a decent 'snow stopped play' incident since 1975, what more proof do you need?

May 13, 2016 at 12:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterNigel S

You are on the slippery slope of calling climate modellers perverts. They are already ostracized by polite society; the practice of banning politics, religion and climate models from the dinner table is to be commended.

But where will these poor benighted souls go now, now that everything about their science is both known and accepted by the consensus? Will we see them homeless and begging on the streets? Will the Met Office and CRU become uninhabited shells of their former glory? Who can predict the future? - not them!!!

May 13, 2016 at 12:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Kendall

Michael Hart
Not all numerical models are the same. Forcing convergence by constraints may be valid but is more likely ignoring the greater likelihood that the time-steps are too large. In short you may just have forced it to the wrong answer. There is a better option of using a stable implicit time-stepping method rather than the unstable explicit method.

May 13, 2016 at 12:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

"In short you may just have forced it to the wrong answer."
I thought that was indeed implicit in my comment, JamesG. Not only is there no single 'correct' answer in a non-equilibrium system like climate, but they still don't know what, and how many, those states may be. They may know some of them, but it is not possible to choose amongst them on any reasonable basis to justify the concept of equilibrium climate sensitivity.

May 13, 2016 at 12:51 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

All climate models are wrong. It's because they assume bidirectional radiative energy interchange at the planet's surface and extra RH from subsequent net warming. However, GHG self-absorption physics makes the atmosphere a virtual IR emitter, one emitting surface in contact with the planet's surface, the other facing Space.

It then comes down to zero IR in all self absorbed GHG bands for which the surface of the planet radiatively disappears. So there's zero IR warming of the atmosphere hence positive feedback is near zero. Any remaining warming is offset by the water cycle. This is all so simple once you realise that the atmosphere, an IR emitter and absorber, is not a vacuum! The you must realise OLR has an emissivity of 1.0!

May 13, 2016 at 12:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

"How low can ECS go?"

Sure fire way to find the true value of something - Put it on Ebay!

Make it 'Click & Collect at Argos'

Returns policy? Caveat emptor rules! If you buy it, its all yours.

May 13, 2016 at 1:22 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

Here is a review the paper got

It's Lindzen and Choi all the way down.

May 13, 2016 at 1:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterEli Rabett

It matters not how much contrary science there is to the AGW paradigm, the Agenda goes marching on, clearly demonstrated by EPA chief, Gina McCartney:

"Over a period of twenty months, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy repeatedly concedes that the Agency’s sweeping climate-regulation of America’s fossil fuel-fired power plants will have no impact on the Earth’s climate. McCarthy openly admits that the Clean Power Plan “is not about end of pipe controls.” Instead, she says the rule is about “driving investment in renewables…, [and] advancing our ongoing clean energy revolution”. McCarthy says, “That’s what… reinventing a global economy looks like.”

Her predecessor Lisa Jackson was on the same train:

20th January 2012, she said:

"As Rio+20, the 20th anniversary of the 1992 Earth Summit, approaches in June, we have a chance to learn lessons, build partnerships and put in place innovative strategies that can reshape the economic and environmental future of our entire planet. It is the rarest of opportunities to truly change the world, and make a difference that will benefit billions of people.

The Agenda is that of the UN:
Ban Ki Moon -UN Secretary-General
14 February 2012

Remarks to KPMG Summit:
“Business Perspective for Sustainable Growth”

"Through the Caring for Climate initiative, over 400 business leaders have pledged to advance low-carbon solutions and help make the green economy a reality. You business CEOs, when you decide something today, it can be carried out tomorrow. That is why I am asking you to help the U.N. to help us protect planet earth and help lift millions of people from poverty and disease."

The Brundtland Report was the core document for Agenda 21, now Agenda 30.
Gro Harlem Brundtland - Socialist International

15 -17 September 1992

XIX Congress of the Socialist International
“Social Democracy in a Changing World”

"We must curb population growth and reinforce the links between population, poverty-alleviation and the rights of women. At the Rio Conference on Environment and Development (1992) it was made clear that we are heading towards a crisis of uncontrollable dimensions unless we change course.

Today we are faced with global challenges that can be addressed only through international cooperation.

Securing peace, sustainable development and democracy requires that nations, in their common interest, establish an effective system of global governance and security. In an increasingly interdependent world, we must find new ways to live - both within our own countries and on a global level - that are socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable.

What we need is a new social contract. Monetary stability will not suffice. And just as democracy originated in Europe some 2500 years ago, just as social democracy developed in Europe over the past 100 years, so must we again take the lead.

To pursue social justice, freedom and democracy will require that we pool our collective experiences and national sovereignties.

There is no alternative to obligatory coordination of financial and monetary policies."

May 13, 2016 at 1:37 PM | Registered Commenterdennisa


Sorry to be so late but data are already corrected to bring them in line with models. It is called homogenization.

May 13, 2016 at 1:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Bates has convincingly confirmed Lindzen and Choi. His blunt conclusion:

“The observational and modelling results of Lindzen and Choi (2011), corroborated by the energy balance model results of Bates (2012), suggest that 2XCO2 effective climate sensitivity is less than 1°C and that the GCMS are overestimating its value.”

Presentation materials are here:

May 13, 2016 at 1:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterRon C.

Michael Hart
I think you misunderstand the purpose of the model. They perturb it with a slug of CO2 and let it stabilise to a new state, the bigger the climate sensitivity the longer it takes to converge but it should still converge regardless of whether the underlying physics is correct or not. Model runs which go unstable are not reliable but that is either the fault of the operator choosing poor inputs or the programmer using an unstable algorithm - it is nothing to do with the physics or the climate. Whilst the climate itself is random, chaotic and never in equilibrium, the specific problem set for the model to solve is not.

May 13, 2016 at 2:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Eli Rabett does not like this paper.

Therefore the Hockey Team must not like this paper.

Knowing the way peer review works in climate science, this paper has just scored 10/10. Excellent!

May 13, 2016 at 2:22 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Such a pity the likes of Rabett never managed to spot the serious errors found by Nic Lewis in the Cowtan/Way and Marvell/Schmidt sensitivity papers otherwise his opinions might be worth something.

May 13, 2016 at 2:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Got as far as ' EQCS ' and gave up - which is what they wanted us to do. Anything to make us think we are thick.

May 13, 2016 at 3:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterLesley

I have not read this paper yet, but will probably find it unpersuasive as was Lindzen and Choi 2011. Rather than pick it apart, step back and think about the bigger picture. The 'grey earth' no feedbacks ECS is ~1.2, a value Lindzen uses. ECS 3 implies Bode net feedback f= 0.65. This is ~ 0.5 water vapor (wv) (wv 2x CO2 per IPCC means 2x 1.2 = 2.4 giving Bode 0.5). The residual 0.15 is mainly clouds. Desslers 2010 cloud feedback paper actually shows the feedback is ~0. Essay Cloudy Clouds in ebook Blowing Smoke. Several lines of evidence (calibrated radiosondes e.g. Paltridge 2009, satellite estimates of upper troposphere humidity e.g. Stephens 2010, and underestimated precipitation e.g. Wentz 2007) suggest wv feedback could be half of the IPCC AR4/AR5 value per Arts of Truth, and essay Humidity is still Wet in Blowing Smoke. A Bode net f of 0.25-0.3 seems observationally supported. That implies ECS ~1.5 to 1.8. And that is the precise mode range found by Nic Lewis' observational energy budget papers.

May 13, 2016 at 3:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterRud Istvan

Well the 1.2 value is a very simplistic calc. and is a starting point only. Lindzen used rather more sophistication plus observations to find a better value. And somehow I just trust him over 'scatterplot' Dessler somehow. As for the feedbacks, they rather stands or fall on whether the climate system can be compared to an electrical circuit and just how much warming you ascribe to mankind versus nature in the first place. Afaik the Lewis estimates are upper bounds and based on a method that the original author now disowns. The point of his work was, as far as I can see, to get a peer-reviewed number out there based on previously accepted IPCC methods that uses up-to-date data and corrects previous errors. I doubt he particularly approves of the actual method or trumpets the results as unarguable.

May 13, 2016 at 4:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

It isn't that there ain't no such thing as CS. I'm not supposed to put that claim in every CS story any more. It's that people don't properly understand what CS is. It IS a way of comparing different models or observation datasets in terms of the already hypothetical global average temperature. It is NOT a real thing. It can't be used to predict temperature trends in the real world. It will always fail to do so because of the non-linear effect of emergent phenomena, or to put it in the terms of the post 'lack of additivity'. Think of it this way. Given a time series of temperature and CO2 concentration, the stats guys will always be able to create a number and call it CS, or even split it into immediate and long-term components. That don't make it real, but they will always get a number. Not CS, but BS.

(Disclaimer, texas housewife, no relevant qualifications whatsoever)

May 13, 2016 at 5:03 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

My money is on 0.0 ± 0.1

May 13, 2016 at 5:37 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Can anyone explain how EfCS can by ~1K if we've already warmed by about 1K, have yet to double atmospheric CO2, and still have a planetary energy imbalance that is probably in excess of 0.5W/m^2?

May 13, 2016 at 5:42 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics


Easy. Natural causes alone or a combo of natural plus AGW is responsible for approximate 1K rise since the little ice age. Sensitivity to CO2 at present concentration is low to unmeasurably small.

May 13, 2016 at 6:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobert Austin

We're almost at half (logarithmic) doubling, not all the warming is due to CO2, and "we have a planetary energy imbalance that is probably [below] 0.5W/m^2 (the idea that we can measure this globally to better than .2 % accuracy is risable)".

Why don't you just do your usual (rabbet like) rebuttal and point out that this an Irish paper. There: job done.

May 13, 2016 at 6:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterCapell

Where have Raff, Entropic Man, aTTP and Phil Clarke gone? Surely they mus be on holiday if they have not popped up to refute this paper?

May 13, 2016 at 6:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterGlebekinvara

aTTP - No. This doesn't stop anyone just jumping in and claiming it to be true '... because we can't think of anything else ..' .

There are reasons why negative feedbacks outnumber positive ones in our universe (minus modern climatology).

May 13, 2016 at 6:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterHenry Galt

1.2 K CO2 CS was originally a bad 'mistake' made in 1976 by R D Cess, who claimed that the ratio of -18 deg C OLR to + 15 deg C surface exitance is Earth's emissivity: you MUST use identical temperatures and geometry!

It 'confirmed' what Manabe and Wetherald modelled in 1967 but if you look very carefully at Manabe's 1-D model, it originally claimed surface energy loss = OLR heated the atmosphere radiatively - that implied a surface temperature drop of 43 K, impossible. So Manabe and Strickland 'overcame' this by claiming it jumped from the local surface by convection then radiatively heated the rest.of the atmosphere. That convection was 10x what any meteorological situation gives.

Manabe and Wetherald then invented negative convection to get 6.5 K/km lapse rate and GISS used the same. Much later, Hansen admitted this was a 'fudge'. So folks, it's all been bad science. Real CO CS for a cloud free planet is ~0.85 K, reduced to zero by the water cycle. It is impossible to have humidity driven feedback except at the extremes. This is why the planet self controls to ±3 K. It's time to shut down the waste of resources in bad modelling.

May 13, 2016 at 7:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

As I understand it, the new paper assumes all the warming is forced. Given this, how can we have warmed by ~1K, not yet have doubled atmospheric CO2, and still have a planetary energy imbalance that is probably > 0.5W/m^2?

May 13, 2016 at 7:14 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

Eli Rabett,

That was not a review of this paper, it was a response to a Bates comment on Dessler's paper.

There appears to be some confusion here with Bates' effective climate sensitivity (EfCS) and equilibrium climate sensitivity (EqCS). ECS = equilibrium climate sensitivity. Unless I'm mistaken, Bates' EfCS appears to be the transient response to CO2 forcing and would therefore be the equivalent of TCR = transient climate response, which is less than ECS generally. A value of TCR = EfCS = 1.0C doesn't sound too unreasonable. Lewis & Curry gave a best estimate for TCR of 1.33C I believe.

May 13, 2016 at 7:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterJaime Jessop

Real AGW was from a cause other than CO2 - Asian aerosols. It saturated 19 years ago when the Asian Brown Cloud formed - agglomeration by Brownian Motion. There''s a very good experimental paper from Ramanathan et al which quantified it. It concluded that the warming of clouds by increased absorption by carbonaceous material gave about half the predicted CO2 - AGW. That 'warming' actually cooled the planet by increasing convection and the radiation of latent heat energy to Space.

Forget about CO2 - it's not the culprit. The better 10% of modellers have a job in the future by reformulating the GCMs with the correct physics!

May 13, 2016 at 7:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

My mistake, Bates' EfCS is a measure of ECS. The paper doesn't consider TCR.

May 13, 2016 at 7:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterJaime Jessop

Ron C: unfortunately Bates parameterization IS LC11. That it gives an LC11 like result is unsurprising. The problem is that the LC11 parameters have been rather thoroughly critiqued. They are dubiously produced by arbitrary assumptions about lagged regressions. Other more likely realistic lags produce higher ECS.
James G, the Bode feedback model is used by Lindzen; its good enough as a high level summary provided net f remains below about 0.75. Its obviously unstable above that curve inflection. Monckton was and is wrong to criticize it with those bounds.

May 13, 2016 at 7:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterRud Istvan

0.8 +/- 0.2 (for those who frequent WUWT)

May 13, 2016 at 8:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Jay

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