AbstractsGeography &GIS

Climate Implications of the Heterogeneity of Anthropogenic Aerosol Forcing

by Geeta Persad

Institution: Princeton University
Year: 2016
Keywords: Aerosols; Air Pollution; Climate Policy; East Asia; Global Climate Modeling; Regional Climate Change
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2069848
Full text PDF: http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/dsp01n583xx402


Short-lived anthropogenic aerosols are concentrated in regions of high human activity, where they interact with radiation and clouds, causing horizontally heterogeneous radiative forcing between polluted and unpolluted regions. Aerosols can absorb shortwave energy in the atmosphere, but deplete it at the surface, producing opposite radiative perturbations between the surface and atmosphere. This thesis investigates climate and policy implications of this horizontal and vertical heterogeneity of anthropogenic aerosol forcing, employing the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory's AM2.1 and AM3 models, both at a global scale and using East Asia as a regional case study. The degree of difference between spatial patterns of climate change due to heterogeneous aerosol forcing versus homogeneous greenhouse gas forcing deeply impacts the detection, attribution, and prediction of regional climate change. This dissertation addresses a gap in current understanding of these two forcings' response pattern development, using AM2.1 historical forcing simulations. The results indicate that fast atmospheric and land-surface processes alone substantially homogenize the global pattern of surface energy flux response to heterogeneous aerosol forcing. Aerosols' vertical redistribution of energy significantly impacts regional climate, but is incompletely understood. It is newly identified here, via observations and historical and idealized forcing simulations, that increased aerosol-driven atmospheric absorption may explain half of East Asia's recent surface insolation decline. Further, aerosols' surface and atmospheric effects counteract each other regionally—atmospheric heating enhances summer monsoon circulation, while surface dimming suppresses it—but absorbing aerosols' combined effects reduce summer monsoon rainfall. This thesis constitutes the first vertical decomposition of aerosols' impacts in this high-emissions region and elucidates the monsoonal response to aerosols' surface versus atmospheric forcing. Future aerosol emissions patterns will affect the distribution of regional climate impacts. This dissertation interrogates how international trade affects existing assumptions about East Asia's future black carbon aerosol emissions, using integrated assessment modeling, emissions and economic data, and AM3 simulations. Exports emerge as a uniquely large and potentially growing source of Chinese black carbon emissions that could impede projected regional emissions reductions, with substantial climate and health consequences. The findings encourage greater emissions projection sophistication and illustrate how societal decisions may influence future aerosol forcing heterogeneity. Advisors/Committee Members: Ramaswamy, Venkatachalam (advisor), Ming, Yi (advisor).