Climate Dynamics

, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 651-662

First online:

On the effect of decreasing CO2 concentration in the atmosphere

  • Isabella BordiAffiliated withDepartment of Physics, Sapienza University of Rome Email author 
  • , Klaus FraedrichAffiliated withUniversität Hamburg
  • , Alfonso SuteraAffiliated withDepartment of Physics, Sapienza University of Rome
  • , Xiuhua ZhuAffiliated withUniversität Hamburg

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In the present paper the effect of an abrupt change of the atmospheric radiative forcing is investigated by means of a global climate model that includes a mixed layer ocean. In assessing if, under such a change, the model response has a bifurcation point, the steady solution is studied for a sudden decrease of CO2 concentration from its actual value. It is found that there is a critical threshold for CO2 content below which the model ends up to a snowball Earth. It occurs for a few percentage changes of CO2 concentration around the threshold because the model strongly depends on the relationship among atmospheric temperature, water vapor content and the sudden ice-albedo feedback activation, even in the subtropical regions. Moreover, results suggest that the transition to ice-covered Earth is clearly favoured when Q-flux corrections (i.e. the parameterization of ocean heat transports) are removed.


Radiative forcing change Hysteresis cycle Global climate model Energy balance model