Lab study on climate sensitivity earns top notch in list of influential research


The American Geophysical Union is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its journal Geophysical Research Letters (GRL) by showcasing some of the highest-achieving papers that have been published over the past 50 years. A paper by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) scientists is one of the winners.

The paper, “Causes of Higher Climate Sensitivity in CMIP6 Models,” authored by LLNL scientists Mark Zelinka, Tim Myers, Stephen Po-Chedley, Peter Caldwell, Stephen Klein and Karl Taylor as well as collaborators from the University of Leeds and Imperial College London was selected by the editor-in-chief as the “Editor’s Choice Paper.” In the paper, the researchers found that the latest generation of global climate models predict more warming in response to increasing carbon dioxide than their predecessors, and traced that to stronger amplifying feedbacks from changes in cloud properties with warming. The study was previously highlighted on the LLNL website.  

In a commentary piece on the paper, GRL editors Harihar Rajaram, Suzana Camargo, Alessandra Giannini and Hui Su explained that a nuanced understanding of the relationship between climate sensitivity and the representation of key underlying processes in models is critical for objective interpretation of climate model projections and for continued model improvement. They noted that Zelinka et al. (2020) “is an excellent example of research that provides such insights and understanding.”

The editors stated that this was an “exceptional study” that “has motivated many in-depth followup investigations of model physics and guided improvements in the representation of cloud feedbacks in next-generation climate models.” It has been cited more than 700 times since its publication in 2020.

“I was truly honored to see this paper highlighted by the editors,” said lead author Zelinka. “We knew we had an interesting and useful result at the time, but I don’t think any of us dreamed it would garner as much attention as it did. I really appreciate my coauthors who elevated the paper — it was a true team effort.”