Climate response to off-equatorial stratospheric sulfur injections in three Earth system models – Part 2: Stratospheric and free-tropospheric response

Journal Article
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, vol. 23, iss. 1, pp. 687-709, 2023
Ewa M. Bednarz, Daniele Visioni, Ben Kravitz, Andy Jones, James M. Haywood, Jadwiga Richter, Douglas G. MacMartin, Peter Braesicke
Abstract. The paper constitutes Part 2 of a study performing a first systematic inter-model comparison of the atmospheric responses to stratospheric aerosol injection (SAI) at various single latitudes in the tropics, as simulated by three state-of-the-art Earth system models – CESM2-WACCM6, UKESM1.0, and GISS-E2.1-G. Building on Part 1 (Visioni et al., 2023) we demonstrate the role of biases in the climatological circulation and specific aspects of the model microphysics in driving the inter-model differences in the simulated sulfate distributions. We then characterize the simulated changes in stratospheric and free-tropospheric temperatures, ozone, water vapor, and large-scale circulation, elucidating the role of the above aspects in the surface SAI responses discussed in Part 1. We show that the differences in the aerosol spatial distribution can be explained by the significantly faster shallow branches of the Brewer–Dobson circulation in CESM2, a relatively isolated tropical pipe and older tropical age of air in UKESM, and smaller aerosol sizes and relatively stronger horizontal mixing (thus very young stratospheric age of air) in the two GISS versions used. We also find a large spread in the magnitudes of the tropical lower-stratospheric warming amongst the models, driven by microphysical, chemical, and dynamical differences. These lead to large differences in stratospheric water vapor responses, with significant increases in stratospheric water vapor under SAI in CESM2 and GISS that were largely not reproduced in UKESM. For ozone, good agreement was found in the tropical stratosphere amongst the models with more complex microphysics, with lower stratospheric ozone changes consistent with the SAI-induced modulation of the large-scale circulation and the resulting changes in transport. In contrast, we find a large inter-model spread in the Antarctic ozone responses that can largely be explained by the differences in the simulated latitudinal distributions of aerosols as well as the degree of implementation of heterogeneous halogen chemistry on sulfate in the models. The use of GISS runs with bulk microphysics demonstrates the importance of more detailed treatment of aerosol processes, with contrastingly different stratospheric SAI responses to the models using the two-moment aerosol treatment; however, some problems in halogen chemistry in GISS are also identified that require further attention. Overall, our results contribute to an increased understanding of the underlying physical mechanisms as well as identifying and narrowing the uncertainty in model projections of climate impacts from SAI.