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Monday, January 26, 2009

Philip Goodwin et al., Climate sensitivity to the carbon cycle modulated by past and future changes in ocean chemistry

Nature Geoscience, published online: 18 January 2009 | doi:10.1038/ngeo416

Climate sensitivity to the carbon cycle modulated by past and future changes in ocean chemistry

Philip Goodwin1,2, Richard G. Williams1, Andy Ridgwell3 & Michael J. Follows4

The carbon cycle has a central role in climate change. For example, during glacial–interglacial cycles, atmospheric carbon dioxide has altered radiative forcing and amplified temperature changes. However, it is unclear how sensitive the climate system has been to changes in carbon cycling in previous geological periods, or how this sensitivity may evolve in the future, following massive anthropogenic emissions. Here we develop an analytical relationship that links the variation of radiative forcing from changes in carbon dioxide concentrations with changes in air–sea carbon cycling on a millennial timescale. We find that this relationship is affected by the ocean storage of carbon and its chemical partitioning in sea water. Our analysis reveals that the radiative forcing of climate is more sensitive to carbon perturbations now than it has been over much of the preceding 400 million years. This high sensitivity is likely to persist into the future as the oceans become more acidic and the bulk of the fossil-fuels inventory is transferred to the ocean and atmosphere.

  1. Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, L69 3GP, UK
  2. School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7TJ, UK
  3. School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, BS8 1SS, UK
  4. Department of Earth, Atmosphere and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA

Correspondence to: Philip Goodwin1,2 e-mail:

Correspondence to: Richard G. Williams1 e-mail:

Link to abstract:

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