GC51A-1157: Could sulfate aerosol emissions be used for regional heat wave mitigation?

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Authors: Diana Bernstein1, 2, J David Neelin1, Qinbin Li1, Dan CHEN1

Author Institutions: 1. Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA; 2. Soil and Water Sciences, Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Rehovot, Israel

Geoengineering applications by injection of sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere are under consideration as a measure of last resort to counter global warming. Here adaptation to a potential regional-scale application to offset the impacts of heat waves is critically examined. The effect of regional-scale sulfate aerosol emission over California in each of two days of the July 2006 heat wave using the Weather Research and Forecasting model with fully coupled chemistry (WRF-Chem) is used to quantify potential reductions in surface temperature as a function of emission rates in the lower stratosphere. Over the range considered, afternoon temperature reductions scale almost linearly with emissions. Local meteorological factors yield geographical differences in surface air temperature sensitivity. For emission rates of approximately 30 $μ$g m$-2$ s-1 of sulfate aerosols (with standard WRF-Chem size distribution) over the region, temperature decreases of around 7°C result during the middle part of the day over the Central Valley, one of the hardest hit by the heat wave. Regions more ventilated with oceanic air such as Los Angeles have slightly smaller reductions. The length of the hottest part of the day is also reduced. Advection effects on the aerosol cloud must be more carefully forecast for smaller emission regions. Verification of the impacts could be done via measurements of differences in reflected and surface downward shortwave. Such regional geoengineering applications with specific near-term target effects but smaller cost and side effects could potentially provide a means of testing larger scale applications. However, design trade-offs differ from global applications and the size of the required emissions and the necessity of emission close to the target region raise substantial concerns. The evaluation of this regional scale application is thus consistent with global model evaluations emphasizing that mitigation via reduction of fossil fuels remains preferable to considering geoengineering with sulfate aerosols.

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  1. […] of local SRM to combat regional heat waves. Diana Bernstein of Hebrew University and colleagues looked specifically at a 2006 heat wave over central California, which lasted for over two weeks and led to the deaths […]