• Open Access

Climate impacts of geoengineering marine stratocumulus clouds



[1] Theoretical potential geoengineering solutions to the global warming problem have recently been proposed. Here, we present an idealized study of the climate response to deliberately seeding large-scale stratocumulus cloud decks in the North Pacific, South Pacific, and South Atlantic, thereby inducing cooling via aerosol indirect effects. Atmosphere-only, atmosphere/mixed-layer ocean, and fully coupled atmosphere/ocean versions of the Met Office Hadley Centre model are used to investigate the radiative forcing, climate efficacy, and regional response of temperature, precipitation, and net primary productivity to such geoengineering. The radiative forcing simulations indicate that, for our parameterization of aerosol indirect effects, up to 35% of the radiative forcing due to current levels of greenhouse gases could be offset by stratocumulus modification. Equilibrium simulations with the atmosphere/mixed-layer ocean model, wherein each of the three stratocumulus sheets is modified in turn, reveal that the most efficient cooling per unit radiative forcing occurs when the South Pacific stratocumulus sheet is modified. Transient coupled model simulations suggest that geoengineering all three stratocumulus areas delays the simulated global warming by about 25 years. These simulations also indicate that, while some areas experience increases in precipitation and net primary productivity, sharp decreases are simulated in South America, with particularly detrimental impacts on the Amazon rain forest. These results show that, while some areas benefit from geoengineering, there are significant areas where the response could be very detrimental with implications for the practical applicability of such a scheme.