11 Apr 2023
 | 11 Apr 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion and under review for Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP).

The Emissions Model Intercomparison Project (Emissions-MIP): quantifying model sensitivity to emission characteristics

Hamza Ahsan, Hailong Wang, Jingbo Wu, Mingxuan Wu, Steven J. Smith, Susanne Bauer, Harrison Suchyta, Dirk Olivié, Gunnar Myhre, Hitoshi Matsui, Huisheng Bian, Jean-François Lamarque, Ken Carslaw, Larry Horowitz, Leighton Regayre, Mian Chin, Michael Schulz, Ragnhild Bieltvedt Skeie, Toshihiko Takemura, and Vaishali Naik

Abstract. Anthropogenic emissions of aerosols and precursor compounds are known to significantly affect the energy balance of the Earth-atmosphere system, alter the formation of clouds and precipitation, and have substantial impact on human health and the environment. Global models are an essential tool for examining the impacts of these emissions. In this study, we examine the sensitivity of model results to the assumed height of SO2 injection, seasonality of SO2 and BC emissions, and the assumed fraction of SO2 emissions that is injected into the atmosphere as SO4 in 11 climate and chemistry models, including both chemical transport models and the atmospheric component of Earth system models. We find a large variation in atmospheric lifetime across models for SO2, SO4, and BC, with a particularly large relative variation for SO2, which indicates that fundamental aspects of atmospheric sulfur chemistry remain uncertain. Of the perturbations examined in this study, the assumed height of SO2 injection had the largest overall impacts, particularly on global mean net radiative flux (maximum difference of -0.35 W m-2), SO2 lifetime over northern hemisphere land (maximum difference of 0.8 days), surface SO2 concentration (up to 59 % decrease), and surface sulfate concentration (up to 23 % increase). Emitting SO2 at height consistently increased SO2 and SO4 column burdens and shortwave cooling, with varying magnitudes, but had inconsistent effects across models on the sign of the change in implied cloud forcing. The assumed SO4 emission fraction also had a significant impact on net radiative flux and surface sulfate concentration. Because these properties are not standardized across models this is a source of inter-model diversity typically neglected in model intercomparisons. These results imply a need to assure that anthropogenic emission injection height and SO4 emission fraction are accurately and consistently represented in global models.

Hamza Ahsan et al.

Status: open (until 25 Jun 2023)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse

Hamza Ahsan et al.

Data sets

CMIP6 historical anthropogenic emissions data Hamza Ahsan, Steven J. Smith

Emissions-MIP climate model results (ESMValTool) Hamza Ahsan, Harrison Suchyta, Steven J. Smith

Hamza Ahsan et al.


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Short summary
We examine the impact of the assumed effective height of SO2 injection, SO2 and BC emissions seasonality, and the assumed fraction of SO2 emissions injected as SO4 on climate and chemistry model results. We find that the SO2 injection height has a large impact on surface SO2 concentrations and, in some models, radiative flux. These assumptions are a “hidden” source of inter-model variability and may be leading to bias in some climate model results.