The Effects of Sulfate Aerosol Injection Across Various Stratospheric Locations

The detrimental effects of global warming have become increasingly apparent, and the current mitigation methods have proven insufficient. Therefore, geoengineering techniques have been proposed as the necessary means to combat global warming. Specifically, solar radiation management using the sulfate aerosol has been named the most effective solution. The authors analyze temperature and precipitation responses to stratospheric sulfate aerosol as a function of both latitude and altitude of release. They model the injection of the sulfate aerosol (comprised of H2S rather than the commonly analyzed SO2) in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. The authors conclude that sulfate aerosol injections at higher latitudes reduce global mean temperature, precipitation, and total ozone. They also conclude that warming in the stratosphere follows cooling in the troposphere. —Michela Isono
Volodin, E., Sergey, V., Ryaboshoapko, A. 2011. Climate Response to Aerosol Injection at Different Stratospheric Locations. Atmospheric Science Letters 12, 381–385.

            Model: The climate model used is Earth system model INMCM. This model includes the general circulation of the atmosphere and oceans. It is used to determine the most effective injection circumstances in order to reduce changes in temperature and precipitation in the Arctic and on a global scale. The observed climate changes in the 20th century will also be reproduced in the model. The model also has a sulfate aerosol component that describes the formation of the sulfate aerosol particles and their removal by gravitational settling. H2S was chosen instead of SO2 because it is a gas with the highest sulfur content by mass, and it has a prolonged lifetime that enables greater dispersion before the aerosol particles are formed and the reduction in particle concentrations by coagulation. Lastly, the gravitational settling velocity is calculated using the Stokes-Cunningham formula:
vg= 109Ccunngd2p / (18 µ), where Vg is gravitational velocity (m/s), g is acceleration due to gravity (9.8 m/s2), d is particle diameter (m), p is particle density (1.63 g/cm3), µ is dynamic viscosity of air (µPa s) and Ccunn is a correction factor.
            Geoengineering scenarios: Six scenarios in the Northern and Southern hemispheres are used in this study. They are at different altitudes above the tropopause and within different latitudinal belts. Each hemisphere experiences a continuous injection of 2 Mt per year. The sulfur injection is continued for 30 year in each model where the level of atmospheric CO2 is constant at 288 ppb. The climate response was determined by the average temperature and precipitation over the latter 20 years. Each model was then compared to a control model with no inclusion of geoengineering. The climate response was calculated as the difference between the temperature or precipitation in the models with geoengineering compared to the control model without geoengineering. The annual mean values were calculated separately for the globe and Arctic (north of 65˚N).
            Results: Scenario 1, 2, and 3 with injections near the equator at 26–28, 22–24, and 20–22 km respectively, were the most effective. Scenarios with lower injections towards the poles were less effective for global cooling. It was determined that injections at higher heights ranging from 20–28 km lead to a higher concentration of gaseous H2SO4 rather than the aerosol. The level of global precipitation reduction and cooling were proportional. The total ozone loss was also proportional to aerosol mass and global cooling. The Arctic temperature change, however, was two times more than the global temperature change. The models also demonstrated significant aerosol concentration located outside of the injection region. The equilibrium aerosol mass in the atmosphere is reached after about two to three years, where the lifetime of the aerosol was 0.9 years. The equilibrium temperature and precipitation response was achieved after 10–15 years.
            The annual mean cooling over land was stronger than over the ocean. The strongest cooling was over high latitude land and sea ice, above 2˚. There was a decrease in precipitation by 5–10% over parts of Eurasia, and North and South America. In contrast, there was an increase in precipitation by 10–20% over Mediterranean, tropical, and subtropical regions. Overall, as the aerosol cooled the troposphere, the stratosphere warmed by 2–8˚. This was due to the aerosols’ absorption of small amounts of visible radiation in the stratosphere.
            Conclusion: The authors concluded that the best scenarios for geoengineering with sulfate aerosol was when the aerosol was injected at 26–28, 22–24, and 20–22 km in the latitudinal band 0–10˚. Additional conclusions were that cooling is greater over land and high altitudes, the injection of aerosols decreases global mean precipitation and total ozone, the cooling in the troposphere is followed by warming in the stratosphere, and an increase of diffuse radiation increases vegetation primary production. 

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