15 Nov 2023
 | 15 Nov 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

Soil carbon-concentration and carbon-climate feedbacks in CMIP6 Earth system models

Rebecca M. Varney, Pierre Friedlingstein, Sarah E. Chadburn, Eleanor J. Burke, and Peter M. Cox

Abstract. Achieving climate targets requires mitigation against climate change, but also understanding of the response of land and ocean carbon systems. In this context, global soil carbon stocks and its response to environmental changes is key. This paper quantifies the global soil carbon feedback to changes in atmospheric CO2, and associated climate changes, for Earth system models (ESMs) in CMIP6. A standard approach is used to calculate carbon cycle feedbacks, defined here as soil specific carbon-concentration (βs) and carbon-climate (γs) feedback parameters. The sensitivity to CO2 is shown to dominate soil carbon changes at least up to a doubling of atmospheric CO2. However, the sensitivity of soil carbon to climate change is found to become an increasingly important source of uncertainty under higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

Rebecca M. Varney et al.

Status: open (until 04 Jan 2024)

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Rebecca M. Varney et al.

Rebecca M. Varney et al.


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Short summary
Soil carbon is the largest store of carbon on the land surface of Earth and is known to be particularly sensitive to climate change. Understanding this future response is vital to successfully meet Paris agreement targets, which rely heavily on carbon uptake by the land surface. In this study, the individual responses of soil carbon are quantified and compared amongst CMIP6 Earth system models used within the most recent IPCC report, and the role of soils within the land response is highlighted.