Quantifying the global carbon cycle response to volcanic stratospheric aerosol radiative forcing using Earth System Models

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Abstract

[1] Large volcanic eruptions can have a significant cooling effect on climate, which is evident in both modern and palaeo data. However, due to the difficulty of disentangling volcanic and other influences in the modern atmospheric CO2 record, and uncertainties associated with palaeo reconstructions of atmospheric CO2, the magnitude of the carbon cycle response to volcanically induced climatic changes is difficult to quantify. In this study, three Earth System Models (SIMEARTH, CLIMBER-2, and CLIMBER LPJ) are used to simulate the effects of different magnitudes of volcanic eruption, from relatively small (e.g., Mount Pelée, 1902) to very large (e.g., the 1258 ice core event), on the coupled global climate-carbon cycle system. These models each use different, but justifiable, parameterizations to simulate the global carbon cycle and climate. Key differences include how soil respiration and net primary productivity respond to temperature and atmospheric CO2. All models simulate global surface cooling in response to volcanic events. In response to a Mount Pinatubo-equivalent eruption, the modelled temperature decrease is 0.3°C to 0.4°C and atmospheric CO2 decreases by 1.1 ppm to 3.4 ppm. The initial response time of climate to volcanic forcing and subsequent recovery time vary little with changes in the size of the forcing. Response times for vegetation and soil carbon are relatively consistent across forcings for each model. However, results indicate that there is significant uncertainty concerning the response of the carbon cycle to volcanic eruptions. Suggestions for future research directed at reducing this uncertainty are given.

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