Connecting regional aerosol emissions reductions to local and remote precipitation responses


Journal Article

© 2018 Author(s). The unintended climatic implications of aerosol and precursor emission reductions implemented to protect public health are poorly understood. We investigate the precipitation response to regional changes in aerosol emissions using three coupled chemistry-climate models: NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory Coupled Model 3 (GFDL-CM3), NCAR Community Earth System Model (CESM1), and NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies ModelE2 (GISS-E2). Our approach contrasts a long present-day control simulation from each model (up to 400 years with perpetual year 2000 or 2005 emissions) with 14 individual aerosol emissions perturbation simulations (160-240 years each). We perturb emissions of sulfur dioxide and/or carbonaceous aerosol within six world regions and assess the significance of precipitation responses relative to internal variability determined by the control simulation and across the models. Global and regional precipitation mostly increases when we reduce regional aerosol emissions in the models, with the strongest responses occurring for sulfur dioxide emissions reductions from Europe and the United States. Precipitation responses to aerosol emissions reductions are largest in the tropics and project onto the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Regressing precipitation onto an Indo-Pacific zonal sea level pressure gradient index (a proxy for ENSO) indicates that the ENSO component of the precipitation response to regional aerosol removal can be as large as 20% of the total simulated response. Precipitation increases in the Sahel in response to aerosol reductions in remote regions because an anomalous interhemispheric temperature gradient alters the position of the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). This mechanism holds across multiple aerosol reduction simulations and models.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Westervelt, DM; Conley, AJ; Fiore, AM; Lamarque, JF; Shindell, DT; Previdi, M; Mascioli, NR; Faluvegi, G; Correa, G; Horowitz, LW

Published Date

  • August 28, 2018

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 18 / 16

Start / End Page

  • 12461 - 12475

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1680-7324

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1680-7316

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.5194/acp-18-12461-2018

Citation Source

  • Scopus