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In discussions of climate change, it is often useful to think about the transition of the climate from one state to another, and ask how the magnitude of the response is related to changes in a control parameter (such as the solar constant, or CO2 concentration). This is the classical problem of climate sensitivity, which is intimately connected with assessing the degree to which Earth has the capacity to change. In such an analysis, we typically begin by reducing the “climate” to a single variable, commonly global mean temperature (T), and gauge its evolution as a function of the control parameter. Of general interest to society, for example, is how the global mean temperature responds to changes in CO2 concentration. I will build up some theoretical background into climate sensitivity in this article, and move on to observations and modeling results in subsequent posts.


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Welcome to ClimatePhys. Please see the Introduction and Blog Rules for an expanded version of the site’s purpose and intended readership. The goal of this site is to provide a technical forum for discussions of planetary climate, climate change, and the governing dynamics that ultimately dictates the behavior of atmospheres. Some attention will be given to the issue of modern-day climate change, although my mission is to focus on a broader class of issues that can be generalized to any time period or even some hypothetical planet. There are, however, a number of key events in Earth’s past that are worth mentioning specifically and I will do so when appropriate.

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