Science Bulletin

, Volume 60, Issue 15, pp 1370–1377

Misdiagnosis of Earth climate sensitivity based on energy balance model results

  • Mark Richardson
  • Zeke Hausfather
  • Dana A. Nuccitelli
  • Ken Rice
  • John P. Abraham
Correspondence Earth Sciences

DOI: 10.1007/s11434-015-0806-z

Cite this article as:
Richardson, M., Hausfather, Z., Nuccitelli, D.A. et al. Sci. Bull. (2015) 60: 1370. doi:10.1007/s11434-015-0806-z


Monckton of Brenchley et al. (Sci Bull 60:122–135, 2015) (hereafter called M15) use a simple energy balance model to estimate climate response. They select parameters for this model based on semantic arguments, leading to different results from those obtained in physics-based studies. M15 did not validate their model against observations, but instead created synthetic test data based on subjective assumptions. We show that M15 systematically underestimate warming: since 1990, most years were warmer than their modelled upper limit. During 2000–2010, RMS error and bias are approximately 150 % and 350 % larger than for the CMIP5 median, using either the Berkeley Earth or Cowtan and Way surface temperature data. We show that this poor performance can be explained by a logical flaw in the parameter selection and that selected parameters contradict observational estimates. M15 also conclude that climate has a near-instantaneous response to forcing, implying no net energy imbalance for the Earth. This contributes to their low estimates of future warming and is falsified by Argo float measurements that show continued ocean heating and therefore a sustained energy imbalance. M15’s estimates of climate response and future global warming are not consistent with measurements and so cannot be considered credible.


Climate sensitivityGlobal warmingClimate changeClimate modelClimate feedback

Copyright information

© Science China Press and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark Richardson
    • 1
    • 6
  • Zeke Hausfather
    • 2
  • Dana A. Nuccitelli
    • 3
  • Ken Rice
    • 4
  • John P. Abraham
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of MeteorologyUniversity of ReadingReadingUK
  2. 2.Energy and Resources GroupUniversity of California, BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA
  3. 3.Skeptical ScienceBrisbaneAustralia
  4. 4.Institute for Astronomy, Royal ObservatoryUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK
  5. 5.School of EngineeringUniversity of St. ThomasSt. PaulUSA
  6. 6.Climate Physics Section, Jet Propulsion LaboratoryCalifornia Institute of TechnologyPasadenaUSA