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Keywords:

  • Climate;
  • aerosols;
  • ozone

[1] We use the GISS (Goddard Institute for Space Studies), GFDL (Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory) and NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research) climate models to study the climate impact of the future evolution of short-lived radiatively active species (ozone and aerosols). The models used mid-range A1B emission scenarios, independently calculated the resulting composition change, and then performed transient simulations to 2050 examining the response to projected changes in short-lived species and to changes in both long-lived and short-lived species together. By 2050, two models show that the global mean annual average warming due to long-lived GHGs (greenhouse gases) is enhanced by 20–25% due to the radiatively active short-lived species. One model shows virtually no effect from short-lived species. Intermodel differences are largely related to differences in emissions projections for short-lived species, which are substantial even for a particular storyline. For aerosols, these uncertainties are usually dominant, though for sulfate uncertainties in aerosol physics are also substantial. For tropospheric ozone, uncertainties in physical processes are more important than uncertainties in precursor emissions. Differences in future atmospheric burdens and radiative forcing for aerosols are dominated by divergent assumptions about emissions from South and East Asia. In all three models, the spatial distribution of radiative forcing is less important than that of climate sensitivity in predicting climate impact. Both short-lived and long-lived species appear to cause enhanced climate responses in the same regions of high sensitivity rather than short-lived species having an enhanced effect primarily near polluted areas. Since short-lived species can significantly influence climate, regional air quality emission control strategies for short-lived pollutants may substantially impact climate over large (e.g., hemispheric) scales.