Articles | Volume 16, issue 21
Research article
09 Nov 2016
Research article |  | 09 Nov 2016

Regional and seasonal radiative forcing by perturbations to aerosol and ozone precursor emissions

Nicolas Bellouin, Laura Baker, Øivind Hodnebrog, Dirk Olivié, Ribu Cherian, Claire Macintosh, Bjørn Samset, Anna Esteve, Borgar Aamaas, Johannes Quaas, and Gunnar Myhre

Abstract. Predictions of temperature and precipitation responses to changes in the anthropogenic emissions of climate forcers require the quantification of the radiative forcing exerted by those changes. This task is particularly difficult for near-term climate forcers like aerosols, methane, and ozone precursors because their short atmospheric lifetimes cause regionally and temporally inhomogeneous radiative forcings. This study quantifies specific radiative forcing, defined as the radiative forcing per unit change in mass emitted, for eight near-term climate forcers as a function of their source regions and the season of emission by using dedicated simulations by four general circulation and chemistry-transport models. Although differences in the representation of atmospheric chemistry and radiative processes in different models impede the creation of a uniform dataset, four distinct findings can be highlighted. Firstly, specific radiative forcing for sulfur dioxide and organic carbon are stronger when aerosol–cloud interactions are taken into account. Secondly, there is a lack of agreement on the sign of the specific radiative forcing of volatile organic compound perturbations, suggesting they are better avoided in climate mitigation strategies. Thirdly, the strong seasonalities of the specific radiative forcing of most forcers allow strategies to minimise positive radiative forcing based on the timing of emissions. Finally, European and shipping emissions exert stronger aerosol specific radiative forcings compared to East Asia where the baseline is more polluted. This study can therefore form the basis for further refining climate mitigation options based on regional and seasonal controls on emissions. For example, reducing summertime emissions of black carbon and wintertime emissions of sulfur dioxide in the more polluted regions is a possible way to improve air quality without weakening the negative radiative forcing of aerosols.

Short summary
This study uses global climate models to quantify how strongly man-made emissions of selected pollutants modify the energy budget of the Earth. The pollutants studied interact directly and indirectly with sunlight and terrestrial radiation and remain a relatively short time in the atmosphere, leading to regional and seasonal variations in their impacts. This new data set is useful to compare the potential climate impacts of different pollutants in support of policies to reduce climate change.
Final-revised paper