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Broecker is most famous for his extensive work on paleoclimate and ocean geochemistry.It is very instructive to see how Broecker arrived at his predictions back in 1975 – not least because even today, many lay people incorrectly assume that we attribute global warming to CO had been going up but temperatures had been going down for decades – but Broecker (like most other climate scientists at the time, and today) understood the basic physics of the issue.In this paper, Broecker correctly predicted “that the present cooling trend will, within a decade or so, give way to a pronounced warming induced by carbon dioxide”, and that “by early in the next century [carbon dioxide] will have driven the mean planetary temperature beyond the limits experienced during the last 1000 years”.He predicted an overall 20th Century global warming of 0.8ºC due to COGlobal temperature up to June 2010 according to the NASA GISS data.I.e., about half of our fossil fuel emissions accumulates in the atmosphere.
Interestingly, his “global warming” paper is not amongst those highly-cited ones, with “only” 79 citations to date.
Basically his prediction involved just three simple steps that in essence are still used today.
Step 1: Predict future emissions Broecker simply assumed a growth in fossil fuel CO emissions of 1.67 trillion tons by the year 2010 (see his Table 1).
Today we know that the climate system responds with a time lag due to ocean thermal inertia.
By neglecting this, Broecker overestimated the warming at any given time; accounting for thermal inertia would have reduced his warming estimate by about a third (see AR4 Fig. But again he was lucky: picking ~2ºC rather than the more likely ~3ºC climate sensitivity compensates roughly for this, so his 20th-Century warming of 0.8ºC is almost spot on (the actual estimate being closer to 0.7ºC, see Fig. (A modern version of this back-of-envelope warming calculation is found e.g.