How well do we understand climate change feedback processes?


Bony, S, R Colman, V Kattsov, RP Allan, CS Bretherton, J-L Dufresne, A Hall, et al. 2006. “How well do we understand climate change feedback processes?” Journal of Climate 19: 3445–3482.


Processes in the climate system that can either amplify or dampen the climate response to an external perturbation are referred to as climate feedbacks. Climate sensitivity estimates depend critically on radiative feedbacks associated with water vapor, lapse rate, clouds, snow, and sea ice, and global estimates of these feedbacks differ among general circulation models. By reviewing recent observational, numerical, and theoretical studies, this paper shows that there has been progress since the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in (i) the understanding of the physical mechanisms involved in these feedbacks, (ii) the interpretation of intermodel differences in global estimates of these feedbacks, and (iii) the development of methodologies of evaluation of these feedbacks (or of some components) using observations. This suggests that continuing developments in climate feedback research will progressively help make it possible to constrain the GCMs’ range of climate feedbacks and climate sensitivity through an ensemble of diagnostics based on physical understanding and observations.

Publisher's Version

Last updated on 03/25/2020