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Volume 17, issue 11 | Copyright

Special issue: The Geoengineering Model Intercomparison Project (GeoMIP):...

Atmos. Chem. Phys., 17, 6547-6564, 2017
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-17-6547-2017
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 02 Jun 2017

Research article | 02 Jun 2017

Glacier evolution in high-mountain Asia under stratospheric sulfate aerosol injection geoengineering

Liyun Zhao1,2, Yi Yang1, Wei Cheng1, Duoying Ji1,2, and John C. Moore1,2,3,4 Liyun Zhao et al.
  • 1College of Global Change and Earth System Science, Beijing Normal University, 19 Xinjiekou Wai St., Beijing, 100875, China
  • 2Joint Center for Global Change Studies, Beijing, 100875, China
  • 3Arctic Centre, University of Lapland, P.O. Box 122, 96101 Rovaniemi, Finland
  • 4CAS Center for Excellence in Tibetan Plateau Earth Sciences, Beijing 100101, China

Abstract. Geoengineering by stratospheric sulfate aerosol injection may help preserve mountain glaciers by reducing summer temperatures. We examine this hypothesis for the glaciers in high-mountain Asia using a glacier mass balance model driven by climate simulations from the Geoengineering Model Intercomparison Project (GeoMIP). The G3 and G4 schemes specify use of stratospheric sulfate aerosols to reduce the radiative forcing under the Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 4.5 scenario for the 50 years between 2020 and 2069, and for a further 20 years after termination of geoengineering. We estimate and compare glacier volume loss for every glacier in the region using a glacier model based on surface mass balance parameterization under climate projections from three Earth system models under G3, five models under G4, and six models under RCP4.5 and RCP8.5. The ensemble projections suggest that glacier shrinkage over the period 2010–2069 is equivalent to sea-level rise of 9.0±1.6mm (G3), 9.8±4.3mm (G4), 15.5±2.3mm (RCP4.5), and 18.5±1.7mm (RCP8.5). Although G3 keeps the average temperature from increasing in the geoengineering period, G3 only slows glacier shrinkage by about 50% relative to losses from RCP8.5. Approximately 72% of glaciated area remains at 2069 under G3, as compared with about 30% for RCP8.5. The widely reported reduction in mean precipitation expected for solar geoengineering is unlikely to be as important as the temperature-driven shift from solid to liquid precipitation for forcing Himalayan glacier change. The termination of geoengineering at 2069 under G3 leads to temperature rise of about 1.3°C over the period 2070–2089 relative to the period 2050-2069 and corresponding increase in annual mean glacier volume loss rate from 0.17 to 1.1%yr−1, which is higher than the 0.66%yr−1 under RCP8.5 during 2070–2089.

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We find stratospheric sulfate aerosol injection geoengineering, G3, can slow shrinkage of high-mountain Asia glaciers by about 50 % by 2069 relative to losses from RCP8.5. The reduction in mean precipitation expected for solar geoengineering is less important than the temperature-driven shift from solid to liquid precipitation for forcing Himalayan glacier change. The termination of geoengineering in 2069 leads to temperature rise of 1.3 °C and corresponding increase in glacier volume loss rate.
We find stratospheric sulfate aerosol injection geoengineering, G3, can slow shrinkage of...
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