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Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  11 Sep 2020

11 Sep 2020

Review status
This preprint is currently under review for the journal ACP.

Harnessing Stratospheric Diffusion Barriers for Enhanced Climate Geoengineering

Nikolas O. Aksamit1, Ben Kravitz2,3, Douglas G. MacMartin4, and George Haller1 Nikolas O. Aksamit et al.
  • 1Institute for Mechanical Systems, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zürich, Switzerland
  • 2Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, USA
  • 3Atmospheric Sciences and Global Change Division, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA, USA
  • 4Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA

Abstract. Stratospheric sulfate-aerosol geoengineering is a proposed method to temporarily intervene in the climate system to increase reflectance of shortwave radiation and reduce mean global temperature. In previous climate modeling studies, choosing injection locations for geoengineering aerosols has thus far only utilized average dynamics of stratospheric wind fields instead of accounting for the essential role of time-varying material transport barriers in turbulent atmospheric flows. Here we conduct the first analysis of sulfate aerosol dispersion in the stratosphere comparing a now-standard fixed-injection scheme with time-varying injection locations that harness short-term stratospheric diffusion barriers. We show how diffusive transport barriers can quickly be identified and inform optimal injection locations using short forecast and reanalysis data. Within the first seven days of transport, the dynamics-based approach is able to produce particle distributions with greater global coverage than fixed-site methods with fewer injections. Additionally, this enhanced dispersion slows aerosol microphysical growth, increasing lifespan of sulfate aerosols at monthly and yearly timescales. We conclude that previous feasibility studies of geoengineering likely underestimate the cooling efficiency of sulfate aerosol geoengineering.

Nikolas O. Aksamit et al.

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Nikolas O. Aksamit et al.

Nikolas O. Aksamit et al.


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Latest update: 29 Sep 2020
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
There exist robust and influential structures that evolve in turbulent fluid flows that behave as a skeleton for fluid transport pathways. Recent developments in applied mathematics have made the identification of these time-varying structures more rigorous and insightful than ever. Using short range wind forecasts, we show a method to exploit these material features for the purpose of optimizing the spread of aerosols in the stratosphere, as applied in a climate geoengineering context.
There exist robust and influential structures that evolve in turbulent fluid flows that behave...