Abstract

Volcanic activity plays a strong role in modulating climate variability1. Most model projections of the twenty-first century, however, under-sample future volcanic effects by not representing the range of plausible eruption scenarios2,3,4. Here, we explore how sixty possible volcanic futures, consistent with ice-core records5, impact climate variability projections of the Norwegian Earth System Model (NorESM)6 under RCP4.5 (ref. 7). The inclusion of volcanic forcing enhances climate variability on annual-to-decadal timescales. Although decades with negative global temperature trends become 50% more commonplace with volcanic activity, these are unlikely to be able to mitigate long-term anthropogenic warming. Volcanic activity also impacts probabilistic projections of global radiation, sea level, ocean circulation, and sea-ice variability, the local-scale effects of which are detectable when quantifying the time of emergence8. These results highlight the importance and feasibility of representing volcanic uncertainty in future climate assessments.

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Acknowledgements

We thank D. Mitchell, A. Kirkevåg, M. Toohey and D. Zanchettin for providing valuable input. This study was supported by the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, Research Council of Norway (229774) and UNINETT Sigma2 (nn9039k, ns9039k).

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Affiliations

  1. Uni Research Climate, Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, Bergen 5007, Norway

    • Ingo Bethke
    •  & Odd Helge Otterå
  2. Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center, Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, Bergen 5006, Norway

    • Stephen Outten
  3. NCAS-Climate, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Reading RG6 6BB, UK

    • Ed Hawkins
  4. Institute for Coastal Research, Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht, Geesthacht 21502, Germany

    • Sebastian Wagner
  5. Laboratory of Environmental Chemistry, Paul Scherrer Institute, Villigen 5232, Switzerland

    • Michael Sigl
  6. Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Bern, Bern 3012, Switzerland

    • Michael Sigl
  7. Irish Climate Analysis and Research Units, Department of Geography, National University of Ireland Maynooth, Maynooth, County Kildare, Ireland

    • Peter Thorne

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Contributions

S.O., P.T. and I.B. developed the stochastic forcing model. S.W. and M.S. helped with the utilization and interpretation of the ice-core reconstructions. I.B., P.T., S.O. and E.H. conceived and designed the simulation experiments. E.H. performed the ToE analysis. All authors contributed to writing the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ingo Bethke.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate3394