, Volume 28, Issue 6, pp 599-633
Date: 01 Dec 2006

Long-term effects of anthropogenic CO2 emissions simulated with a complex earth system model

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Abstract

A new complex earth system model consisting of an atmospheric general circulation model, an ocean general circulation model, a three-dimensional ice sheet model, a marine biogeochemistry model, and a dynamic vegetation model was used to study the long-term response to anthropogenic carbon emissions. The prescribed emissions follow estimates of past emissions for the period 1751–2000 and standard IPCC emission scenarios up to the year 2100. After 2100, an exponential decrease of the emissions was assumed. For each of the scenarios, a small ensemble of simulations was carried out. The North Atlantic overturning collapsed in the high emission scenario (A2) simulations. In the low emission scenario (B1), only a temporary weakening of the deep water formation in the North Atlantic is predicted. The moderate emission scenario (A1B) brings the system close to its bifurcation point, with three out of five runs leading to a collapsed North Atlantic overturning circulation. The atmospheric moisture transport predominantly contributes to the collapse of the deep water formation. In the simulations with collapsed deep water formation in the North Atlantic a substantial cooling over parts of the North Atlantic is simulated. Anthropogenic climate change substantially reduces the ability of land and ocean to sequester anthropogenic carbon. The simulated effect of a collapse of the deep water formation in the North Atlantic on the atmospheric CO2 concentration turned out to be relatively small. The volume of the Greenland ice sheet is reduced, but its contribution to global mean sea level is almost counterbalanced by the growth of the Antarctic ice sheet due to enhanced snowfall. The modifications of the high latitude freshwater input due to the simulated changes in mass balance of the ice sheet are one order of magnitude smaller than the changes due to atmospheric moisture transport. After the year 3000, the global mean surface temperature is predicted to be almost constant due to the compensating effects of decreasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations due to oceanic uptake and delayed response to increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations before.