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Geoingegneria e Aerosol an Overview of Geoengineering of Climate Using Stratospheric Sulphate Aerosols

Geoingegneria e Aerosol an Overview of Geoengineering of Climate Using Stratospheric Sulphate Aerosols

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R
EVIEW
An overview of geoengineering of climateusing stratospheric sulphate aerosols
B
Y
P
HILIP
J. R
ASCH
1,
*, S
IMONE
T
ILMES
1
, R
ICHARD
P. T
URCO
2
,A
LAN
R
OBOCK
3
, L
UKE
O
MAN
4
, C
HIH
-C
HIEH
(J
ACK
) C
HEN
1
, G
EORGIY
L. S
TENCHIKOV
3
AND
R
OLANDO
R. G
ARCIA
1
1
National Center for Atmospheric Research, PO Box 3000-80307,Boulder, CO 80307, USA
2
Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of California,Los Angeles, CA 90095-1565, USA
3
Department of Environmental Sciences, Rutgers University,New Brunswick, NJ 08901, USA
4
Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Johns Hopkins University,Baltimore, MD 21218, USA
We provide an overview of geoengineering by stratospheric sulphate aerosols. The stateof understanding about this topic as of early 2008 is reviewed, summarizing the past 30years of work in the area, highlighting some very recent studies using climate models,and discussing methods used to deliver sulphur species to the stratosphere. The studiesreviewed here suggest that sulphate aerosols can counteract the globally averagedtemperature increase associated with increasing greenhouse gases, and reduce changes tosome other components of the Earth system. There are likely to be remaining regionalclimate changes after geoengineering, with some regions experiencing significant changesin temperature or precipitation. The aerosols also serve as surfaces for heterogeneouschemistry resulting in increased ozone depletion. The delivery of sulphur species to thestratosphere in a way that will produce particles of the right size is shown to be acomplex and potentially very difficult task. Two simple delivery scenarios are explored,but similar exercises will be needed for other suggested delivery mechanisms. While theintroduction of the geoengineering source of sulphate aerosol will perturb the sulphurcycle of the stratosphere signicantly, it is a small perturbation to the total (stratosphereand troposphere) sulphur cycle. The geoengineering source would thus be a smallcontributor to the total global source of ‘acid rainthat could be compensated forthrough improved pollution control of anthropogenic tropospheric sources. Some areas of research remain unexplored. Although ozone may be depleted, with a consequentincrease to solar ultraviolet-B (UVB) energy reaching the surface and a potential impacton health and biological populations, the aerosols will also scatter and attenuate this partof the energy spectrum, and this may compensate the UVB enhancement associated withozone depletion. The aerosol will also change the ratio of diffuse to direct energy reaching
Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A
(2008)
366
, 4007–4037doi:10.1098/rsta.2008.0131
Published online 
29 August 2008One contribution of 12 to a Theme Issue ‘Geoscale engineering to avert dangerous climate change’.*Author for correspondence (pjr@ucar.edu).
4007
This journal is
q
2008 The Royal Society
 
the surface, and this may influence ecosystems. The impact of geoengineering on thesecomponents of the Earth system has not yet been studied. Representations for theformation, evolution and removal of aerosol and distribution of particle size are still verycrude, and more work will be needed to gain confidence in our understanding of thedeliberate production of this class of aerosols and their role in the climate system.
Keywords: climate change; geoengineering; sulphate aerosols; global warming
1. Introduction
The concept of ‘geoengineering’ (the deliberate change of the Earth’s climate bymankind;Keith 2000) has been considered at least as far back as the 1830s withJ. P. Espy’s suggestion (Fleming 1990) of lighting huge fires that would stimulateconvective updrafts and change rain intensity and frequency of occurrence.Geoengineering has been considered for many reasons since then, ranging frommaking polar latitudes habitable to changing precipitation patterns.There is increasing concern by scientists and society in general that energysystem transformation is proceeding too slowly to avoid the risk of dangerousclimate change from humankind’s release of radiatively important atmosphericconstituents (particularly CO
2
). The assessment by the Intergovernmental Panelon Climate Change (IPCC 2007
) shows that unambiguous indicators of human-induced climate change are increasingly evident, and there has been little societalresponse to the scientific consensus that reductions must take place soon to avoidlarge and undesirable impacts.To reduce carbon dioxide emissions soon enough to avoid large andundesirable impacts requires a near-term revolutionary transformation of energyand transportation systems throughout the world (Hoffert
. 1998). Thesize of the transformation, the lack of effective societal response and the inertia tochanging our energy infrastructure motivate the exploration of other strategiesto mitigate some of the planetary warming. For this reason, geoengineeringfor the purpose of cooling the planet is receiving increasing attention. Abroad overview to geoengineering can be found in the reviews of Keith (2000),WRMSR (2007), and the papers in this volume. The geoengineering paradigmis not without its own perils (Robock 2008). Some of the uncertaintiesand consequences of geoengineering by stratospheric aerosols are discussed inthis paper.This study describes an approach to cooling the planet, which goes backto the mid-1970s, whenBudyko (1974)suggested that, if global warmingever became a serious threat, we could counter it with airplane flights in thestratosphere, burning sulphur to make aerosols that would reflect sunlight away.The aerosols would increase the planetary albedo and cool the planet,ameliorating some (but as discussed below, not all) of the effects of increasingCO
2
concentrations. The aerosols are chosen/designed to reside in thestratosphere because it is remote, and they will have a much longer residencetime than tropospheric aerosols that are rapidly scavenged. The longer lifetimemeans that a few aerosols need be delivered per unit time to achieve a givenaerosol burden, and that the aerosols will disperse and act to force the climatesystem over a larger area.
P. J. Rasch et al.
4008
Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A
(2008)
 
Sulphate aerosols are always found in the stratosphere. Low backgroundconcentrations arise due to transport from the troposphere of natural andanthropogenic sulphur-bearing compounds. Occasionally much higher concen-trations arise from volcanic eruptions, resulting in a temporary cooling of theEarth system (Robock 2000), which disappears as the aerosol is flushed fromthe atmosphere. The volcanic injection of sulphate aerosol thus serves as anatural analogue to the geoengineering aerosol. The analogy is not perfectbecause the volcanic aerosol is flushed within a few years, and the climate systemdoes not respond in the same way as it would if the particles were continuallyreplenished, as they would be in a geoengineering effort. Perturbations tothe system that might become evident with constant forcing disappear as theforcing disappears.This study reviews the state of understanding about geoengineering bysulphate aerosols as of early 2008. We review the published literature, introducesome new material and summarize some very recent results that are presented indetail in the submitted articles at the time of the writing of this paper. In oursummary we also try to identify areas where more research is needed.Since the paper byBudyko (1974), the ideas generated there have receivedoccasional attention in discussions about geoengineering (e.g.NAS92 1992;Turco 1995; Govindasamy & Caldeira2000,2003;Govindasamy
. 2002;Crutzen 2006;Wigley 2006;Matthews & Caldeira 2007). There are also legal, moral, ethical, financial and international political issuesassociated with a manipulation of our environment. Commentaries (Bengtsson2006;Cicerone 2006;Kiehl 2006;Lawrence 2006;MacCracken 2006) toCrutzen
0
°
90
°
evaporationtropicalpipetransportsedimentationtropopausefoldaircraft sulfurand soottransportof sourcegasescloudscavengingtropopause cloudprocessesnucleationcondensationand coagulationtropicalstratosphericreservoirpolarvortexnucleationPSCsremoval~17 km~8 km
Figure 1. A schematic of the processes that influence the life cycle of stratospheric aerosols(adapted with permission fromSPARC 2006).
4009
Review. Geoengineering by sulphate aerosols 
Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A
(2008)

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