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Response of Arctic temperature to changes in emissions of short-lived climate forcers

Abstract

There is growing scientific1,2 and political3,4 interest in the impacts of climate change and anthropogenic emissions on the Arctic. Over recent decades temperatures in the Arctic have increased at twice the global rate, largely as a result of ice–albedo and temperature feedbacks5,6,7,8. Although deep cuts in global CO2 emissions are required to slow this warming, there is also growing interest in the potential for reducing short-lived climate forcers (SLCFs; refs 9,10). Politically, action on SLCFs may be particularly promising because the benefits of mitigation are seen more quickly than for mitigation of CO2 and there are large co-benefits in terms of improved air quality11. This Letter is one of the first to systematically quantify the Arctic climate impact of regional SLCFs emissions, taking into account black carbon (BC), sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), organic carbon (OC) and tropospheric ozone (O3), and their transport processes and transformations in the atmosphere. This study extends the scope of previous works2,12 by including more detailed calculations of Arctic radiative forcing and quantifying the Arctic temperature response. We find that the largest Arctic warming source is from emissions within the Asian nations owing to the large absolute amount of emissions. However, the Arctic is most sensitive, per unit mass emitted, to SLCFs emissions from a small number of activities within the Arctic nations themselves. A stringent, but technically feasible mitigation scenario for SLCFs, phased in from 2015 to 2030, could cut warming by 0.2 (±0.17) K in 2050.

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Figure 1: Model-mean annual Arctic equilibrium surface temperature response.
Figure 2: Annual mean Arctic equilibrium surface temperature response per unit of emissions due to direct forcing of BC, BC in snow, and direct and indirect forcing from OC and sulphate averaged over the models.
Figure 3: Contribution to annual mean reductions of Arctic surface temperatures in 2050 due to mitigation of SLCFs according to the MIT mitigation scenario.

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Acknowledgements

This paper was developed as part of the Arctic Monitoring Assessment Programme (AMAP). The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013) under grant agreement no 282688—ECLIPSE. M.S. was supported by The Norwegian Research Council by grant number 235548/E10, CRAICC and through the NOTUR/Norstore project. K.v.S. acknowledges support by NSERC through the Canadian NETCARE research network. M.G.F. was also supported by NSF ARC-1253154. Contributions by SMHI were funded by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency under contract NV-09414-12 and through the Swedish Clean Air and Climate Research Program (Scac).

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M.G.F., K.v.S., J.L., T.K.B. and M.S. conceived, designed and performed the model simulations and analysed the data; M.S. made the figures and led the writing of the paper. All authors contributed to the writing of the paper.

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Correspondence to M. Sand.

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Sand, M., Berntsen, T., von Salzen, K. et al. Response of Arctic temperature to changes in emissions of short-lived climate forcers. Nature Clim Change 6, 286–289 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2880

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