IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group I: The Physical Science Basis

10.4.4 Simulations of Future Evolution of Major Aerosol Species

The time-dependent evolution of major aerosol species and the interaction of these species with climate represent some of the major sources of uncertainty in projections of climate change. An increasing number of AOGCMs have included multiple types of tropospheric aerosols including sulphates, nitrates, black and organic carbon, sea salt and soil dust. Of the 23 models represented in the multi-model ensemble of climate-change simulations for IPCC AR4, 13 include other tropospheric species besides sulphates. Of these, seven have the non-sulphate species represented with parametrizations that interact with the remainder of the model physics. Nitrates are treated in just two of the models in the ensemble. Recent projections of nitrate and sulphate loading under the SRES A2 scenario suggest that forcing by nitrates may exceed forcing by sulphates by the end of the 21st century (Adams et al., 2001). This result is of course strongly dependent upon the evolution of precursor emissions for these aerosol species.

The black and organic carbon aerosols in the atmosphere include a very complex system of primary organic aerosols (POA) and secondary organic aerosols (SOA), which are formed by oxidation of biogenic VOCs. The models used for climate projections typically use highly simplified bulk parametrizations for POA and SOA. More detailed parametrizations for the formation of SOA that trace oxidation pathways have only recently been developed and used to estimate the direct radiative forcing by SOA for present-day conditions (Chung and Seinfeld, 2002). The forcing by SOA is an emerging issue for simulations of present-day and future climate since the rate of chemical formation of SOA may be 60% or more of the emissions rate for primary carbonaceous aerosols (Kanakidou et al., 2005). In addition, two-way coupling between reactive chemistry and tropospheric aerosols has not been explored comprehensively in climate change simulations. Unified models that treat tropospheric ozone-NOx-hydrocarbon chemistry, aerosol formation, heterogeneous processes in clouds and on aerosols, and gas-phase photolysis have been developed and applied to the current climate (Liao et al., 2003). However, these unified models have not yet been used extensively to study the evolution of the chemical state of the atmosphere under future scenarios.

The interaction of soil dust with climate is under active investigation. Whether emissions of soil dust aerosols increase or decrease in response to changes in atmospheric state and circulation is still unresolved (Tegen et al., 2004a). Several recent studies have suggested that the total surface area where dust can be mobilised will decrease in a warmer climate with higher concentrations of CO2 (e.g., Harrison et al., 2001). The net effects of reductions in dust emissions from natural sources combined with land use change could potentially be significant but have not been systematically modelled as part of climate change assessment.

Uncertainty regarding the scenario simulations is compounded by inherently unpredictable natural forcings from future volcanic eruptions and solar variability. The eruptions that produce climatologically significant forcing represent just the extremes of global volcanic activity (Naveau and Ammann, 2005). Global simulations can account for the effects of future natural forcings using stochastic representations based upon prior eruptions and variations in solar luminosity. The relative contribution of these forcings to the projections of global mean temperature anomalies are largest in the period up to 2030 (Stott and Kettleborough, 2002).