How warming and steric sea level rise relate to cumulative carbon emissions

Richard G. Williams*, Philip Goodwin, Andy Ridgwell, Philip L. Woodworth

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


[1] Surface warming and steric sea level rise over the global ocean nearly linearly increase with cumulative carbon emissions for an atmosphere-ocean equilibrium, reached many centuries after emissions cease. Surface warming increases with cumulative emissions with a proportionality factor, ΔTsurface:2×CO 2/(I B ln 2), ranging from 0.8 to 1.9 K (1000 PgC) -1 for surface air temperature, depending on the climate sensitivity ΔTsurface:2×CO 2 and the buffered carbon inventory I B. Steric sea level rise similarly increases with cumulative emissions and depends on the climate sensitivity of the bulk ocean, ranging from 0.4 K to 2.7 K; a factor 0.4 ± 0.2 smaller than that for surface temperature based on diagnostics of two Earth System models. The implied steric sea level rise ranges from 0.7 m to 5 m for a cumulative emission of 5000 PgC, approached perhaps 500 years or more after emissions cease.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberL19715
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - 22 Oct 2012


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