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Influence of feedback on the stochastic evolution of simple climate systems
L. Mahadevan and J. M. Deutch
Proceedings: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Vol. 466, No. 2116 (8 April 2010), pp. 993-1003
Published by: Royal Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25661479
Page Count: 11
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We consider the dynamical evolution of a simple climate system that describes the average temperature of the Earth's atmosphere owing to radiative forcing and coupling to a positive feedback variable such as the concentration of greenhouse gases in the presence of fluctuations. Analysing the resulting stochastic dynamical system shows that, if the temperature relaxes rapidly relative to the concentration, the time-dependent and stationary probability density functions (pdfs) for the temperature rise possess a fat tail. In contrast, if the feedback variable relaxes rapidly relative to the temperature, the pdf has no fat tail, and, instead, the system shows critical slowing down as the singular limit of positive feedback is approached. However, if there is uncertainty in the feedback variable itself, a fat tail can reappear. Our analysis may be generalized to more complex models with similar qualitative results. Our results have policy implications: although fat tails imply that the expectation of plausible damage functions is infinite, the pdfs permit an examination of the trade-off between reducing emissions and reducing the positive feedback gain.
Proceedings: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences © 2010 Royal Society