An investigation into linearity with cumulative emissions of the climate and carbon cycle response in HadCM3LC

S. K. Liddicoat, B. B. B. Booth, M. M. Joshi

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We investigate the extent to which global mean temperature, precipitation, and the carbon cycle are constrained by cumulative carbon emissions throughout four experiments with a fully coupled climate-carbon cycle model. The two paired experiments adopt contrasting, idealised approaches to climate change mitigation at different action points this century, with total emissions exceeding two trillion tonnes of carbon in the later pair. Their initially diverging cumulative emissions trajectories cross after several decades, before diverging again. We find that their global mean temperatures are, to first order, linear with cumulative emissions, though regional differences in temperature of up to 1.5K exist when cumulative emissions of each pair coincide. Interestingly, although the oceanic precipitation response scales with cumulative emissions, the global precipitation response does not, due to a decrease in precipitation over land above cumulative emissions of around one trillion tonnes of carbon (TtC). Most carbon fluxes and stores are less well constrained by cumulative emissions as they reach two trillion tonnes. The opposing mitigation approaches have different consequences for the Amazon rainforest, which affects the linearity with which the carbon cycle responds to cumulative emissions. Averaged over the two fixed-emissions experiments, the transient response to cumulative carbon emissions (TCRE) is 1.95 K TtC-1, at the upper end of the IPCC’s range of 0.8-2.5 K TtC-1.
Original languageEnglish
Article number065003
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jun 2016

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