Shortwave radiative forcing, rapid adjustment, and feedback to the surface by sulfate geoengineering: analysis of the Geoengineering Model Intercomparison Project G4 scenario
Abstract. This study evaluates the forcing, rapid adjustment, and feedback of net shortwave radiation at the surface in the G4 experiment of the Geoengineering Model Intercomparison Project by analysing outputs from six participating models. G4 involves injection of 5 Tg yr−1 of SO2, a sulfate aerosol precursor, into the lower stratosphere from year 2020 to 2069 against a background scenario of RCP4.5. A single-layer atmospheric model for shortwave radiative transfer is used to estimate the direct forcing of solar radiation management (SRM), and rapid adjustment and feedbacks from changes in the water vapour amount, cloud amount, and surface albedo (compared with RCP4.5). The analysis shows that the globally and temporally averaged SRM forcing ranges from −3.6 to −1.6 W m−2, depending on the model. The sum of the rapid adjustments and feedback effects due to changes in the water vapour and cloud amounts increase the downwelling shortwave radiation at the surface by approximately 0.4 to 1.5 W m−2 and hence weaken the effect of SRM by around 50 %. The surface albedo changes decrease the net shortwave radiation at the surface; it is locally strong (∼ −4 W m−2) in snow and sea ice melting regions, but minor for the global average. The analyses show that the results of the G4 experiment, which simulates sulfate geoengineering, include large inter-model variability both in the direct SRM forcing and the shortwave rapid adjustment from change in the cloud amount, and imply a high uncertainty in modelled processes of sulfate aerosols and clouds.