Physical Climate Response to a Reduction of Anthropogenic Climate Forcing

Samanta, Arindam; Anderson, Bruce T.; Ganguly, Sangram; Knyazikhin, Yuri; Nemani, Ramakrishna R.; Myneni, Ranga B.
July 2010
Earth Interactions;2010, Vol. 14 Issue 7, p1
Academic Journal
Recent research indicates that the warming of the climate system resulting from increased greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions over the next century will persist for many centuries after the cessation of these emissions, principally because of the persistence of elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations and their attendant radiative forcing. However, it is unknown whether the responses of other components of the climate system�including those related to Greenland and Antarctic ice cover, the Atlantic thermohaline circulation, the West African monsoon, and ecosystem and human welfare�would be reversed even if atmospheric CO2 concentrations were to recover to 1990 levels. Here, using a simple set of experiments employing a current-generation numerical climate model, the authors examine the response of the physical climate system to decreasing CO2 concentrations following an initial increase. Results indicate that many characteristics of the climate system, including global temperatures, precipitation, soil moisture, and sea ice, recover as CO2 concentrations decrease. However, other components of the Earth system may still exhibit nonlinear hysteresis. In these experiments, for instance, increases in stratospheric water vapor, which initially result from increased CO2 concentrations, remain present even as CO2 concentrations recover. These results suggest that identification of additional threshold behaviors in response to human-induced global climate change should focus on subcomponents of the full Earth system, including cryosphere, biosphere, and chemistry.


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