Transient Climate Impacts for Scenarios of Aerosol Emissions from Asia: A Story of Coal versus Gas

Grandey, B., H. Cheng, and C. Wang.
Journal of Climate,

Fuel usage is an important driver of anthropogenic aerosol emissions. In Asia, it is possible that aerosol emissions may increase if business continues as usual, with economic growth driving an increase in coal burning. But it is also possible that emissions may decrease rapidly as a result of the widespread adoption of cleaner technologies or a shift toward noncoal fuels, such as natural gas. In this study, the transient climate impacts of two aerosol emissions scenarios are investigated: a representative concentration pathway 4.5 (RCP4.5) control, which projects a decrease in anthropogenic aerosol emissions, and a scenario with enhanced anthropogenic aerosol emissions from Asia. A coupled atmosphere–ocean configuration of the Community Earth System Model (CESM), including the Community Atmosphere Model, version 5 (CAM5), is used. Three sets of initial conditions are used to produce a three-member ensemble for each scenario. Enhanced Asian aerosol emissions are found to exert a large cooling effect across the Northern Hemisphere, partially offsetting greenhouse gas–induced warming. Aerosol-induced suppression of the East Asian and South Asian summer monsoon precipitation occurs. The enhanced Asian aerosol emissions also remotely impact precipitation in other parts of the world. Over Australia, austral summer monsoon precipitation is enhanced, an effect associated with a southward shift of the intertropical convergence zone, driven by the aerosol-induced cooling of the Northern Hemisphere. Over the Sahel, West African monsoon precipitation is suppressed, likely via a weakening of the West African westerly jet. These results indicate that fuel usage in Asia, through the consequent aerosol emissions and associated radiative effects, might significantly influence future climate both locally and globally.