Weakened Tropical Circulation and Reduced Precipitation in Response to Geoengineering

Environmental Research Letters (2013, v9 n1 p014001; doi:10.1088/1748-9326/9/1/014001) / by Angus J Ferraro, Eleanor J Highwood and Andrew J Charlton-Perez

Geoengineering by injection of reflective aerosols into the stratosphere has been proposed as a way to counteract the warming effect of greenhouse gases by reducing the intensity of solar radiation reaching the surface. Here, climate model simulations are used to examine the effect of geoengineering on the tropical overturning circulation. The strength of the circulation is related to the atmospheric static stability and has implications for tropical rainfall. The tropical circulation is projected to weaken under anthropogenic global warming.

Geoengineering with stratospheric sulfate aerosol does not mitigate this weakening of the circulation. This response is due to a fast adjustment of the troposphere to radiative heating from the aerosol layer. This effect is not captured when geoengineering is modelled as a reduction in total solar irradiance, suggesting caution is required when interpreting model results from solar dimming experiments as analogues for stratospheric aerosol geoengineering. [H/T: Climate Wire]


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