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Multicentury changes in ocean and land contributions to the climate-carbon feedback

  • Author(s): Randerson, JT
  • Lindsay, K
  • Munoz, E
  • Fu, W
  • Moore, JK
  • Hoffman, FM
  • Mahowald, NM
  • Doney, SC
  • et al.
Abstract

© 2015. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved. Improved constraints on carbon cycle responses to climate change are needed to inform mitigation policy, yet our understanding of how these responses may evolve after 2100 remains highly uncertain. Using the Community Earth System Model (v1.0), we quantified climate-carbon feedbacks from 1850 to 2300 for the Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 and its extension. In three simulations, land and ocean biogeochemical processes experienced the same trajectory of increasing atmospheric CO2. Each simulation had a different degree of radiative coupling for CO2and other greenhouse gases and aerosols, enabling diagnosis of feedbacks. In a fully coupled simulation, global mean surface air temperature increased by 9.3 K from 1850 to 2300, with 4.4 K of this warming occurring after 2100. Excluding CO2, warming from other greenhouse gases and aerosols was 1.6 K by 2300, near a 2 K target needed to avoid dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Ocean contributions to the climate-carbon feedback increased considerably over time and exceeded contributions from land after 2100. The sensitivity of ocean carbon to climate change was found to be proportional to changes in ocean heat content, as a consequence of this heat modifying transport pathways for anthropogenic CO2inflow and solubility of dissolved inorganic carbon. By 2300, climate change reduced cumulative ocean uptake by 330 Pg C, from 1410 Pg C to 1080 Pg C. Land fluxes similarly diverged over time, with climate change reducing stocks by 232 Pg C. Regional influence of climate change on carbon stocks was largest in the North Atlantic Ocean and tropical forests of South America. Our analysis suggests that after 2100, oceans may become as important as terrestrial ecosystems in regulating the magnitude of the climate-carbon feedback.

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