Articles | Volume 14, issue 8
Research article
22 Apr 2014
Research article |  | 22 Apr 2014

Offsetting effects of aerosols on Arctic and global climate in the late 20th century

Q. Yang, C. M. Bitz, and S. J. Doherty

Abstract. We examine the impacts of atmospheric aerosols on Arctic and global climate using a series of 20th century transient simulations from Community Climate System Model version 4 (CCSM4). We focus on the response of surface air temperature to the direct radiative forcing driven by changes in sulfate and black carbon (BC) concentrations from 1975 to 2005 and we also examine the response to changes in sulfate, BC, and organic carbon (OC) aerosols collectively. The direct forcing from sulfate dominates the aerosol climate effect. Globally averaged, simultaneous changes in all three aerosols produce a cooling trend of 0.015 K decade−1 during the period 1975–2005. In the Arctic, surface air temperature has large spatial variations in response to changes in aerosol concentrations. Over the European Arctic, aerosols induce about 0.6 K decade−1 warming, which is about 1.8 K warming over the 30-year period. This warming is triggered mainly by the reduction in sulfate and BC emissions over Europe since the 1970s and is reinforced by sea ice loss and a strengthening in atmospheric northward heat transport. Changes in sulfate concentrations account for about two thirds of the warming and BC for the remaining one third. Over the Siberian and North American Arctic, surface air temperature is likely influenced by changes in aerosol concentrations over Asia. An increase in sulfate optical depth over Asia induces a large cooling while an increase in BC over Asia causes a significant warming.

Final-revised paper