Climate response to off-equatorial stratospheric sulfur injections in three Earth system models – Part 1: Experimental protocols and surface changes

Journal Article
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, vol. 23, iss. 1, pp. 663-685, 2023
Daniele Visioni, Ewa M. Bednarz, Walker R. Lee, Ben Kravitz, Andy Jones, Jim M. Haywood, Douglas G. MacMartin
Abstract. There is now substantial literature on climate model studies of equatorial or tropical stratospheric SO2 injections that aim to counteract the surface warming produced by rising concentrations of greenhouse gases. Here we present the results from the first systematic intercomparison of climate responses in three Earth system models wherein the injection of SO2 occurs at different latitudes in the lower stratosphere: CESM2-WACCM6, UKESM1.0 and GISS-E2.1-G. The first two use a modal aerosol microphysics scheme, while two versions of GISS-E2.1-G use a bulk aerosol (One-Moment Aerosol, OMA) and a two-moment (Multiconfiguration Aerosol TRacker of mIXing state, MATRIX) microphysics approach, respectively. Our aim in this work is to determine commonalities and differences between the climate model responses in terms of the distribution of the optically reflective sulfate aerosols produced from the oxidation of SO2 and in terms of the surface response to the resulting reduction in solar radiation. A focus on understanding the contribution of characteristics of models transport alongside their microphysical and chemical schemes, and on evaluating the resulting stratospheric responses in different models, is given in the companion paper (Bednarz et al., 2023). The goal of this exercise is not to evaluate these single-point injection simulations as stand-alone proposed strategies to counteract global warming; instead we determine sources and areas of agreement and uncertainty in the simulated responses and, ultimately, the possibility of designing a comprehensive intervention strategy capable of managing multiple simultaneous climate goals through the combination of different injection locations. We find large disagreements between GISS-E2.1-G and the CESM2-WACCM6 and UKESM1.0 models regarding the magnitude of cooling per unit of aerosol optical depth (AOD) produced, which varies from 4.7 K per unit of AOD in CESM2-WACCM6 to 16.7 K in the GISS-E2.1-G version with two-moment aerosol microphysics. By normalizing the results with the global mean response in each of the models and thus assuming that the amount of SO2 injected is a free parameter that can be managed independently, we highlight some commonalities in the overall distributions of the aerosols, in the inter-hemispheric surface temperature response and in shifts to the Intertropical Convergence Zone, as well as some areas of disagreement, such as the extent of the aerosol confinement in the equatorial region and the efficiency of the transport to polar latitudes. In conclusion, we demonstrate that it is possible to use these simulations to produce more comprehensive injection strategies in multiple climate models. However, large differences in the injection magnitudes can be expected, potentially increasing inter-model spreads in some stratospheric quantities (such as aerosol distribution) while reducing the spread in the surface response in terms of temperature and precipitation; furthermore, the selection of the injection locations may be dependent on the models' specific stratospheric transport.