Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Regional climate response to solar-radiation management

Abstract

Concerns about the slow pace of climate mitigation have led to renewed dialogue about solar-radiation management, which could be achieved by adding reflecting aerosols to the stratosphere1,2,3,4,5,6. Modelling studies suggest that solar-radiation management could produce stabilized global temperatures and reduced global precipitation4,5,6. Here we present an analysis of regional differences in a climate modified by solar-radiation management, using a large-ensemble modelling experiment that examines the impacts of 54 scenarios for global temperature stabilization. Our results confirm that solar-radiation management would generally lead to less extreme temperature and precipitation anomalies, compared with unmitigated greenhouse gas emissions. However, they also illustrate that it is physically not feasible to stabilize global precipitation and temperature simultaneously as long as atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise. Over time, simulated temperature and precipitation in large regions such as China and India vary significantly with different trajectories for solar-radiation management, and they diverge from historical baselines in different directions. Hence, it may not be possible to stabilize the climate in all regions simultaneously using solar-radiation management. Regional diversity in the response to different levels of solar-radiation management could make consensus about the optimal level of geoengineering difficult, if not impossible, to achieve.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

$32.00

All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Time series of global optical depth, temperature and precipitation of the 54 scenarios examined.
Figure 2: Relationship between change in precipitation rate as a function of change in global-mean near-surface air temperature and equivalent carbon dioxide concentration.
Figure 3: Modelled response to different levels of average global solar-radiation management (SRM) over time in India and China.
Figure 4: ‘Optimal’ solar-radiation management (SRM) scenarios for the summer for each region.

References

  1. Crutzen, P. J. Albedo enhancement by stratospheric sulfur injections: A contribution to resolve a policy dilemma? Clim. Change 77, 211–220 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Wigley, T. M. L. A combined mitigation/geoengineering approach to climate stabilization. Science 314, 452–454 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. The Royal Society. Geoengineering the Climate: Science, Governance and Uncertainty. September 2009.

  4. Robock, A., Oman, L. & Stenchikov, G. L. Regional climate responses to geoengineering with tropical and Arctic SO2 injections. J. Geophys. Res. 113, D16101 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Jones, A., Haywood, J., Boucher, O., Kravitz, B. & Robock, A. Geoengineering by stratospheric SO2 injection: Results from the Met Office HadGEM2 climate model and comparison with the Goddard Institute for Space Studies ModelE. Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss. 10, 7421–7434 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Caldeira, K. & Wood, L. Global and Arctic climate engineering: Numerical model studies. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 366, 4039–4056 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Budkyo, M. I. The Earth’s Climate Past and Future (Academic, 1982).

    Google Scholar 

  8. Doney, S. C., Fabry, V. J., Feely, R. A. & Kleypas, J. A. Ocean acidification: The other CO2 problem. Annu. Rev. Mar. Sci. 1, 169–192 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Frame, D. J. et al. The climate prediction.net BBC climate change experiment: Design of the coupled model ensemble. Proc. R. Soc. A 367, 855–870 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Gordon, C. et al. The simulation of SST, sea ice extents and ocean heat transports in a version of the Hadley Centre coupled model without flux adjustments. Clim. Dyn. 16, 147–168 (2000).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Allen, M. Do-it-yourself climate prediction. Nature 401, 642–642 (1999).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Allen, M. R. & Ingram, W. J. Constraints on future changes in climate and the hydrologic cycle. Nature 419, 224–232 (2002).

    Google Scholar 

  13. Bala, G., Duffy, P. B. & Taylor, K. E. Impact of geoengineering schemes on the global hydrological cycle. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 105, 7664–7669 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Giorgi, F. & Francisco, R. Uncertainties in regional climate change prediction: A regional analysis of ensemble simulations with the HADCM2 coupled AOGCM. Clim. Dyn. 16, 169–182 (2000).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Forster, P. & Collins, M. Quantifying the water vapour feedback associated with post-Pinatubo cooling. Clim. Dyn. 23, 207–214 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Randall, D. A. et al. in IPCC Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis (eds Solomon, S. et al.) 589–662 (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007).

    Google Scholar 

  17. Stenchikov, G. et al. Arctic Oscillation response to volcanic eruptions in the IPCC AR4 climate models. J. Geophys. Res. 111, D07107 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Latham, J. et al. Global temperature stabilization via controlled albedo enhancement of low-level maritime clouds. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 366, 3969–3987 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Boucher, O., Lowe, J. A. & Jones, C. D. Implications of delayed actions in addressing carbon dioxide emission reduction in the context of geo-engineering. Clim. Change 92, 261–273 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Gu, L. et al. Response of a deciduous forest to the mount Pinatubo eruption: Enhanced photosynthesis. Science 299, 2035–2038 (2003).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Tilmes, S., Garcia, R. R., Kinnison, D. E., Gettelman, A. & Rasch, P. J. Impact of geoengineered aerosols on the troposphere and stratosphere. J. Geophys. Res. 114, D12305 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Matthews, H. D. & Caldeira, K. Transient climate-carbon simulations of planetary geoengineering. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 104, 9949–9954 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Körner, C. & Bazzaz, F. A. Carbon Dioxide, Populations, and Communities (Academic, 1996).

    Google Scholar 

  24. Hoegh-Guldberg, O. et al. Coral reefs under rapid climate change and ocean acidification. Science 318, 1737–1742 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Victor, D., Morgan, M. G., Apt, J., Steinbrunner, J. & Ricke, K. The geoengineering option. Foreign Affairs 88, 64–76 (2009).

    Google Scholar 

  26. Nakiçenoviç, N. & Swart, R. IPCC Special Report on Emission Scenarios (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000).

    Google Scholar 

  27. Horowitz, L. W. Past, present, and future concentrations of tropospheric ozone and aerosols: Methodology, ozone evaluation, and sensitivity to aerosol wet removal. J. Geophys. Res. 111, D22211 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Boucher, O. & Pham, M. History of sulfate aerosol radiative forcings. Geophys. Res. Lett. 29, 1308 (2002).

    Google Scholar 

  29. Forster, P. et al. in IPCC Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis (eds Solomon, S. et al.) 129–234 (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007).

    Google Scholar 

  30. Sato, M., Hansen, J. E., McCormick, M. P. & Pollack, J. B. Stratospheric aerosol optical depth, 1850–1990. J. Geophys. Res. 98, 22987–22994 (1993).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

The authors thank the cpdn participants for their donations of computing power without which the experiment would not have been possible. We thank T. Aina, D. Rowlands and the cpdn team for deployment of the experiment through the cpdn system, P. Stier and H. Yamazaki for advice and supervision during experimental design, W. Ingram for providing HadCM3 model diagnostics and comments on multiple drafts, and D. Keith for suggestions on the analyses. K.L.R. acknowledges support from a US National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and the ARCS Foundation. K.L.R. and M.G.M. acknowledge the support of the Climate Decision Making Center funded by the US National Science Foundation (SES-0345798).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

K.L.R. designed and carried out the experiments and carried out the data analysis, M.G.M. and M.R.A. supervised the design and interpretation. The manuscript was written by K.L.R. and edited by M.G.M. and M.R.A.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Katharine L. Ricke.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Information (PDF 1925 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Ricke, K., Morgan, M. & Allen, M. Regional climate response to solar-radiation management. Nature Geosci 3, 537–541 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo915

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo915

This article is cited by

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing