Articles | Volume 14, issue 15
Research article
05 Aug 2014
Research article |  | 05 Aug 2014

Sensitivity of simulated climate to latitudinal distribution of solar insolation reduction in solar radiation management

A. Modak and G. Bala

Abstract. Solar radiation management (SRM) geoengineering has been proposed as a potential option to counteract climate change. We perform a set of idealized geoengineering simulations using Community Atmosphere Model version 3.1 developed at the National Center for Atmospheric Research to investigate the global hydrological implications of varying the latitudinal distribution of solar insolation reduction in SRM methods. To reduce the solar insolation we have prescribed sulfate aerosols in the stratosphere. The radiative forcing in the geoengineering simulations is the net forcing from a doubling of CO2 and the prescribed stratospheric aerosols. We find that for a fixed total mass of sulfate aerosols (12.6 Mt of SO4), relative to a uniform distribution which nearly offsets changes in global mean temperature from a doubling of CO2, global mean radiative forcing is larger when aerosol concentration is maximum at the poles leading to a warmer global mean climate and consequently an intensified hydrological cycle. Opposite changes are simulated when aerosol concentration is maximized in the tropics. We obtain a range of 1 K in global mean temperature and 3% in precipitation changes by varying the distribution pattern in our simulations: this range is about 50% of the climate change from a doubling of CO2. Hence, our study demonstrates that a range of global mean climate states, determined by the global mean radiative forcing, are possible for a fixed total amount of aerosols but with differing latitudinal distribution. However, it is important to note that this is an idealized study and thus not all important realistic climate processes are modeled.

Final-revised paper