Differing precipitation response between solar radiation management and carbon dioxide removal due to fast and slow components

Anton Laakso, Peter K. Snyder, Stefan Liess, Antti Ilari Partanen, Dylan B. Millet

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3 Scopus citations


Solar radiation management (SRM) and carbon dioxide removal (CDR) are geoengineering methods that have been proposed to mitigate global warming in the event of insufficient greenhouse gas emission reductions. Here, we have studied temperature and precipitation responses to CDR and SRM with the Representative Concentration Pathway 4.5 (RCP4.5) scenario using the MPI-ESM and CESM Earth system models (ESMs). The SRM scenarios were designed to meet one of the two different long-term climate targets: to keep either global mean (1) surface temperature or (2) precipitation at the 2010-2020 level via stratospheric sulfur injections. Stratospheric sulfur fields were simulated beforehand with an aerosol-climate model, with the same aerosol radiative properties used in both ESMs. In the CDR scenario, atmospheric <span classCombining double low line"inline-formula">CO2</span> concentrations were reduced to keep the global mean temperature at approximately the 2010-2020 level. Results show that applying SRM to offset 21st century climate warming in the RCP4.5 scenario leads to a 1.42&thinsp;% (MPI-ESM) or 0.73&thinsp;% (CESM) reduction in global mean precipitation, whereas CDR increases global precipitation by 0.5&thinsp;% in both ESMs for 2080-2100 relative to 2010-2020. In all cases, the simulated global mean precipitation change can be represented as the sum of a slow temperature-dependent component and a fast temperature-independent component, which are quantified by a regression method. Based on this component analysis, the fast temperature-independent component of the changed atmospheric <span classCombining double low line"inline-formula">CO2</span> concentration explains the global mean precipitation change in both SRM and CDR scenarios. Based on the SRM simulations, a total of 163-199&thinsp;Tg&thinsp;S (CESM) or 292-318&thinsp;Tg&thinsp;S (MPI-ESM) of injected sulfur from 2020 to 2100 was required to offset global mean warming based on the RCP4.5 scenario. To prevent a global mean precipitation increase, only 95-114&thinsp;Tg&thinsp;S was needed, and this was also enough to prevent global mean climate warming from exceeding 2<span classCombining double low line"inline-formula">ĝ&circ;</span> above preindustrial temperatures. The distinct effects of SRM in the two ESM simulations mainly reflected differing shortwave absorption responses to water vapour. Results also showed relatively large differences in the individual (fast versus slow) precipitation components between ESMs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)415-434
Number of pages20
JournalEarth System Dynamics
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 12 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Financial support. This research has been supported by the Ti-ina and Antti Herlin Foundation (grant no. 20150826), the Fonds de Recherche du Québec, – Nature et technologies (grant no. 200414), the Concordia Institute for Water, Energy and Sustainable Systems (CIWESS), and the Academy of Finland (grant no. 308365).


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