Climate response to the physiological impact of carbon dioxide on plants in the Met Office Unified Model HadCM3
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- Boucher, O., Jones, A. & Betts, R.A. Clim Dyn (2009) 32: 237. doi:10.1007/s00382-008-0459-6
The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere acts to control the stomatal conductance of plants. There is observational and modelling evidence that an increase in the atmospheric concentration of CO2 would suppress the evapotranspiration (ET) rate over land. This process is known as CO2 physiological forcing and has been shown to induce changes in surface temperature and continental runoff. We analyse two transient climate simulations for the twenty-first century to isolate the climate response to the CO2 physiological forcing. The land surface warming associated with the decreased ET rate is accompanied by an increase in the atmospheric lapse rate, an increase in specific humidity, but a decrease in relative humidity and stratiform cloud over land. We find that the water vapour feedback more than compensates for the decrease in latent heat flux over land as far as the budget of atmospheric water vapour is concerned. There is evidence that surface snow, water vapour and cloudiness respond to the CO2 physiological forcing and all contribute to further warm the climate system. The climate response to the CO2 physiological forcing has a quite different signature to that from the CO2 radiative forcing, especially in terms of the changes in the temperature vertical profile and surface energy budget over land.