Climate response to the increase in tropospheric ozone since preindustrial times: A comparison between ozone and equivalent CO2 forcings



[1] We examine the characteristics of the climate response to anthropogenic changes in tropospheric ozone. Using a general circulation model, we have carried out a pair of equilibrium climate simulations with realistic present-day and preindustrial ozone distributions. We find that the instantaneous radiative forcing of 0.49 W m−2 due to the increase in tropospheric ozone since preindustrial times results in an increase in global mean surface temperature of 0.28°C. The increase is nearly 0.4°C in the Northern Hemisphere and about 0.2°C in the Southern Hemisphere. The largest increases (>0.8°C) are downwind of Europe and Asia and over the North American interior in summer. In the lower stratosphere, global mean temperatures decrease by about 0.2°C due to the diminished upward flux of radiation at 9.6 μm. The largest stratospheric cooling, up to 1.0°C, occurs over high northern latitudes in winter, with possibly important implications for the formation of polar stratospheric clouds. To identify the characteristics of climate forcing unique to tropospheric ozone, we have conducted two additional climate equilibrium simulations: one in which preindustrial tropospheric ozone concentrations were increased everywhere by 18 ppb, producing the same global radiative forcing as present-day ozone but without the heterogeneity; and one in which CO2 was decreased by 25 ppm relative to present day, with ozone at present-day values, to again produce the same global radiative forcing but with the spectral signature of CO2 rather than ozone. In the first simulation (uniform increase of ozone), the global mean surface temperature increases by 0.25°C, with an interhemispheric difference of only 0.03°C, as compared with nearly 0.2°C for the heterogeneous ozone increase. In the second simulation (equivalent CO2), the global mean surface temperature increases by 0.36°C, 30% higher than the increase from tropospheric ozone. The stronger surface warming from CO2 is in part because CO2 forcing (obscured by water vapor) is shifted relatively poleward where the positive ice-albedo feedback amplifies the climate response and in part because the magnitude of the CO2 forcing in the midtroposphere is double that of ozone. However, we find that CO2 is far less effective than tropospheric ozone in driving lower stratospheric cooling at high northern latitudes in winter.