Quantifying the effects of perturbing the physics of an interactive sulfur scheme using an ensemble of GCMs on the climateprediction.net platform



[1] Aerosols from anthropogenic and natural sources have been recognized as having an important impact on the climate system. However, the small size of aerosol particles (ranging from 0.01 to more than 10 μm in diameter) and their influence on solar and terrestrial radiation makes them difficult to represent within the coarse resolution of general circulation models (GCMs) such that small-scale processes, for example, sulfate formation and conversion, need parameterizing. It is the parameterization of emissions, conversion, and deposition and the radiative effects of aerosol particles that causes uncertainty in their representation within GCMs. The aim of this study was to perturb aspects of a sulfur cycle scheme used within a GCM to represent the climatological impacts of sulfate aerosol derived from natural and anthropogenic sulfur sources. It was found that perturbing volcanic SO2 emissions and the scavenging rate of SO2 by precipitation had the largest influence on the sulfate burden. When these parameters were perturbed the sulfate burden ranged from 0.73 to 1.17 TgS for 2050 sulfur emissions (A2 Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES)), comparable with the range in sulfate burden across all the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change SRESs. Thus, the results here suggest that the range in sulfate burden due to model uncertainty is comparable with scenario uncertainty. Despite the large range in sulfate burden there was little influence on the climate sensitivity, which had a range of less than 0.5 K across the ensemble. We hypothesize that this small effect was partly associated with high sulfate loadings in the control phase of the experiment.