Posts Tagged 'globalmodeling'

Reverse weathering as a long-term stabilizer of marine pH and planetary climate

For the first four billion years of Earth’s history, climate was marked by apparent stability and warmth despite the Sun having lower luminosity1. Proposed mechanisms for maintaining an elevated partial pressure of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere pCO2 centre on a reduction in the weatherability of Earth’s crust and therefore in the efficiency of carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere2. However, the effectiveness of these mechanisms remains debated2,3. Here we use a global carbon cycle model to explore the evolution of processes that govern marine pH, a factor that regulates the partitioning of carbon between the ocean and the atmosphere. We find that elevated rates of ‘reverse weathering’—that is, the consumption of alkalinity and generation of acidity during marine authigenic clay formation4,5,6,7—enhanced the retention of carbon within the ocean–atmosphere system, leading to an elevated pCO2 baseline. Although this process is dampened by sluggish kinetics today, we propose that more prolific rates of reverse weathering would have persisted under the pervasively silica-rich conditions8,9 that dominated Earth’s early oceans. This distinct ocean and coupled carbon–silicon cycle state would have successfully maintained the equable and ice-free environment that characterized most of the Precambrian period. Further, we propose that during this time, the establishment of a strong negative feedback between marine pH and authigenic clay formation would have also enhanced climate stability by mitigating large swings in pCO2—a critical component of Earth’s natural thermostat that would have been dominant for most of Earth’s history. We speculate that the late ecological rise of siliceous organisms8 and a resulting decline in silica-rich conditions dampened the reverse weathering buffer, destabilizing Earth’s climate system and lowering baseline pCO2.

Continue reading ‘Reverse weathering as a long-term stabilizer of marine pH and planetary climate’

The location and protection status of earth’s diminishing marine wilderness


  • We classify 13.2% (∼55 million km2) of the world’s ocean as marine wilderness
  • Little wilderness remains in coastal areas (e.g., coral reefs)
  • Only 4.9% of marine wilderness is currently within marine protected areas
  • Targets to retain marine wilderness are needed in global conservation strategies


As human activities increasingly threaten biodiversity areas devoid of intense human impacts are vital refugia. These wilderness areas contain high genetic diversity, unique functional traits, and endemic species; maintain high levels of ecological and evolutionary connectivity; and may be well placed to resist and recover from the impacts of climate change. On land, rapid declines in wilderness.  Here we systematically map marine wilderness globally by identifying areas that have both very little impact (lowest 10%) from 15 anthropogenic stressors and also a very low combined cumulative impact from these stressors. We discover that ∼13% of the ocean meets this definition of global wilderness, with most being located in the high seas. Recognizing that human influence differs across ocean regions, we repeat the analysis within each of the 16 ocean realms Realm-specific wilderness extent varies considerably, with >16 million km2 (8.6%) in the Warm Indo-Pacific, down to <2,000 km2 (0.5%) in Temperate Southern Africa. We also show that the marine protected area estate holds only 4.9% of global wilderness and 4.1% of realm-specific wilderness, very little of which is in biodiverse ecosystems such as coral reefs. Proactive retention of marine wilderness should now be incorporated into global strategies aimed at conserving biodiversity and ensuring that large-scale ecological and evolutionary processes continue.

Continue reading ‘The location and protection status of earth’s diminishing marine wilderness’

Future ecosystem changes in the Northeast Atlantic: a comparison between a global and a regional model system

The biogeochemistry from a global climate model (Norwegian Earth System Model) has been compared with results from a regional model (NORWECOM.E2E), where the regional model is forced by downscaled physics from the global model. The study should both be regarded as a direct comparison between a regional and its driving global model to investigate at what extent a global climate model can be used for regional studies, and a study of the future climate change in the Nordic and Barents Seas. The study concludes that the global and regional model compare well on trends, but many details are lost when a coarse resolution global model is used to assess climate impact on regional scale. The main difference between the two models is the timing of the spring bloom, and a non-exhaustive nutrient consumption in the global model in summer. The global model has a cold (in summer) and saline bias compared with climatology. This is both due to poorly resolved physical processes and oversimplified ecosystem parameterization. Through the downscaling the regional model is to some extent able to alleviate the bias in the physical fields, and the timing of the spring bloom is close to observations. The summer nutrient minimum is one month early. There is no trend in future primary production in any of the models, and the trends in modelled pH and ΩAr are also the same in both models. The largest discrepancy in the future projection is in the development of the CO2 uptake, where the regional suggests a slightly reduced uptake in the future.

Continue reading ‘Future ecosystem changes in the Northeast Atlantic: a comparison between a global and a regional model system’

Stabilization of global temperature at 1.5°C and 2.0°C: implications for coastal areas

The effectiveness of stringent climate stabilization scenarios for coastal areas in terms of reduction of impacts/adaptation needs and wider policy implications has received little attention. Here we use the Warming Acidification and Sea Level Projector Earth systems model to calculate large ensembles of global sea-level rise (SLR) and ocean pH projections to 2300 for 1.5°C and 2.0°C stabilization scenarios, and a reference unmitigated RCP8.5 scenario. The potential consequences of these projections are then considered for global coastal flooding, small islands, deltas, coastal cities and coastal ecology. Under both stabilization scenarios, global mean ocean pH (and temperature) stabilize within a century. This implies significant ecosystem impacts are avoided, but detailed quantification is lacking, reflecting scientific uncertainty. By contrast, SLR is only slowed and continues to 2300 (and beyond). Hence, while coastal impacts due to SLR are reduced significantly by climate stabilization, especially after 2100, potential impacts continue to grow for centuries. SLR in 2300 under both stabilization scenarios exceeds unmitigated SLR in 2100. Therefore, adaptation remains essential in densely populated and economically important coastal areas under climate stabilization. Given the multiple adaptation steps that this will require, an adaptation pathways approach has merits for coastal areas.

This article is part of the theme issue ‘The Paris Agreement: understanding the physical and social challenges for a warming world of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels’.

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Impacts of shifts in phytoplankton community on clouds and climate via the sulfur cycle

Dimethyl sulfide (DMS), primarily produced by marine organisms, contributes significantly to sulfate aerosol loading over the ocean after being oxidized in the atmosphere. In addition to exerting a direct radiative effect, the resulting aerosol particles act as cloud condensation nuclei, modulating cloud properties and extent, with impacts on atmospheric radiative transfer and climate. Thus, changes in pelagic ecosystems, such as phytoplankton physiology and community structure, may influence organosulfur production, and subsequently affect climate via the sulfur cycle. A fully coupled Earth system model, including explicit marine ecosystems and the sulfur cycle, is used here to investigate the impacts of changes associated with individual phytoplankton groups on DMS emissions and climate. Simulations show that changes in phytoplankton community structure, DMS production efficiency, and interactions of multielement biogeochemical cycles can all lead to significant differences in DMS transfer to the atmosphere. Subsequent changes in sulfate aerosol burden, cloud condensation nuclei number, and radiative effect are examined. We find the global annual mean cloud radiative effect shifts up to 0.21 W/m2, and the mean surface temperature increases up to 0.1 °C due to DMS production changes associated with individual phytoplankton group in simulations with radiative effects at the 2,100 levels under an 8.5 scenario. However, changes in DMS emissions, radiative effect, and surface temperature are more intensive on regional scales. Hence, we speculate that major uncertainties associated with future marine sulfur cycling will involve strong region‐to‐region climate shifts. Further understanding of marine ecosystems and the relevant phytoplankton‐aerosol‐climate linkage are needed for improving climate projections.

Continue reading ‘Impacts of shifts in phytoplankton community on clouds and climate via the sulfur cycle’

Climate, ocean circulation, and sea level changes under stabilization and overshoot pathways to 1.5 K warming (update)

The Paris Agreement has initiated a scientific debate on the role that carbon removal – or net negative emissions – might play in achieving less than 1.5 K of global mean surface warming by 2100. Here, we probe the sensitivity of a comprehensive Earth system model (GFDL-ESM2M) to three different atmospheric CO2 concentration pathways, two of which arrive at 1.5 K of warming in 2100 by very different pathways. We run five ensemble members of each of these simulations: (1) a standard Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP4.5) scenario, which produces 2 K of surface warming by 2100 in our model; (2) a stabilization pathway in which atmospheric CO2 concentration never exceeds 440 ppm and the global mean temperature rise is approximately 1.5 K by 2100; and (3) an overshoot pathway that passes through 2 K of warming at mid-century, before ramping down atmospheric CO2 concentrations, as if using carbon removal, to end at 1.5 K of warming at 2100. Although the global mean surface temperature change in response to the overshoot pathway is similar to the stabilization pathway in 2100, this similarity belies several important differences in other climate metrics, such as warming over land masses, the strength of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), ocean acidification, sea ice coverage, and the global mean sea level change and its regional expressions. In 2100, the overshoot ensemble shows a greater global steric sea level rise and weaker AMOC mass transport than in the stabilization scenario, with both of these metrics close to the ensemble mean of RCP4.5. There is strong ocean surface cooling in the North Atlantic Ocean and Southern Ocean in response to overshoot forcing due to perturbations in the ocean circulation. Thus, overshoot forcing in this model reduces the rate of sea ice loss in the Labrador, Nordic, Ross, and Weddell seas relative to the stabilized pathway, suggesting a negative radiative feedback in response to the early rapid warming. Finally, the ocean perturbation in response to warming leads to strong pathway dependence of sea level rise in northern North American cities, with overshoot forcing producing up to 10 cm of additional sea level rise by 2100 relative to stabilization forcing.

Continue reading ‘Climate, ocean circulation, and sea level changes under stabilization and overshoot pathways to 1.5 K warming (update)’

Climate–carbon cycle uncertainties and the Paris agreement

The Paris Agreement1 aims to address the gap between existing climate policies and policies consistent with “holding the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 C”. The feasibility of meeting the target has been questioned both in terms of the possible requirement for negative emissions2 and ongoing debate on the sensitivity of the climate–carbon-cycle system3. Using a sequence of ensembles of a fully dynamic three-dimensional climate–carbon-cycle model, forced by emissions from an integrated assessment model of regional-level climate policy, economy, and technological transformation, we show that a reasonable interpretation of the Paris Agreement is still technically achievable. Specifically, limiting peak (decadal) warming to less than 1.7 °C, or end-of-century warming to less than 1.54 °C, occurs in 50% of our simulations in a policy scenario without net negative emissions or excessive stringency in any policy domain. We evaluate two mitigation scenarios, with 200 gigatonnes of carbon and 307 gigatonnes of carbon post-2017 emissions respectively, quantifying the spatio-temporal variability of warming, precipitation, ocean acidification and marine productivity. Under rapid decarbonization decadal variability dominates the mean response in critical regions, with significant implications for decision-making, demanding impact methodologies that address non-linear spatio-temporal responses. Ignoring carbon-cycle feedback uncertainties (which can explain 47% of peak warming uncertainty) becomes unreasonable under strong mitigation conditions.

Continue reading ‘Climate–carbon cycle uncertainties and the Paris agreement’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book