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Geographic Aspects of Temperature and Concentration Feedbacks in the Carbon Budget

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  • 1 Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis, Environment Canada, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
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Abstract

The geographical distribution of feedback processes in the carbon budget is investigated in a manner that parallels that for climate feedback/sensitivity in the energy budget. Simulations for a range of emission scenarios, made with the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis (CCCma) earth system model (CanESM1), are the basis of the analysis. Anthropogenic CO2 emissions are concentrated in the Northern Hemisphere and provide the forcing for changes to the atmospheric carbon budget. Transports redistribute the emitted CO2 globally where local feedback processes act to enhance (positive feedback) or suppress (negative feedback) local CO2 amounts in response to changes in CO2 concentration and temperature.

An increased uptake of CO2 by the land and ocean acts to counteract increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations so that “carbon–concentration” feedbacks are broadly negative over the twenty-first century. Largest values are found over land and particularly in tropical regions where CO2 acts to fertilize plant growth. Extratropical land also takes up CO2 but here the effect is limited by cooler temperatures. Oceans play a lesser negative feedback role with comparatively weak uptake associated with an increase in the atmosphere–ocean CO2 gradient rather than with oceanic biological activity.

The effect of CO2-induced temperature increase is, by contrast, to increase atmospheric CO2 on average and so represents an overall positive “carbon–temperature” feedback. Although the average is positive, local regions of both positive and negative carbon–temperature feedback are seen over land as a consequence of the competition between changes in biological productivity and respiration. Positive carbon–temperature feedback is found over most tropical land while mid–high-latitude land exhibits negative feedback. There are also regions of positive and negative oceanic carbon–temperature feedback in the eastern tropical Pacific.

The geographical patterns of carbon–concentration and carbon–temperature feedbacks are comparatively robust across the range of emission scenarios used, although their magnitudes are somewhat less robust and scale nonlinearly as a consequence of the large CO2 concentration changes engendered by the scenarios. The feedback patterns deduced nevertheless serve to illustrate the localized carbon feedback processes in the climate system.

Corresponding author address: George Boer, University of Victoria, P.O. Box 3065 STN CSC, Victoria, BC V8W 2Y2, Canada. Email: george.boer@ec.gc.ca

Abstract

The geographical distribution of feedback processes in the carbon budget is investigated in a manner that parallels that for climate feedback/sensitivity in the energy budget. Simulations for a range of emission scenarios, made with the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis (CCCma) earth system model (CanESM1), are the basis of the analysis. Anthropogenic CO2 emissions are concentrated in the Northern Hemisphere and provide the forcing for changes to the atmospheric carbon budget. Transports redistribute the emitted CO2 globally where local feedback processes act to enhance (positive feedback) or suppress (negative feedback) local CO2 amounts in response to changes in CO2 concentration and temperature.

An increased uptake of CO2 by the land and ocean acts to counteract increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations so that “carbon–concentration” feedbacks are broadly negative over the twenty-first century. Largest values are found over land and particularly in tropical regions where CO2 acts to fertilize plant growth. Extratropical land also takes up CO2 but here the effect is limited by cooler temperatures. Oceans play a lesser negative feedback role with comparatively weak uptake associated with an increase in the atmosphere–ocean CO2 gradient rather than with oceanic biological activity.

The effect of CO2-induced temperature increase is, by contrast, to increase atmospheric CO2 on average and so represents an overall positive “carbon–temperature” feedback. Although the average is positive, local regions of both positive and negative carbon–temperature feedback are seen over land as a consequence of the competition between changes in biological productivity and respiration. Positive carbon–temperature feedback is found over most tropical land while mid–high-latitude land exhibits negative feedback. There are also regions of positive and negative oceanic carbon–temperature feedback in the eastern tropical Pacific.

The geographical patterns of carbon–concentration and carbon–temperature feedbacks are comparatively robust across the range of emission scenarios used, although their magnitudes are somewhat less robust and scale nonlinearly as a consequence of the large CO2 concentration changes engendered by the scenarios. The feedback patterns deduced nevertheless serve to illustrate the localized carbon feedback processes in the climate system.

Corresponding author address: George Boer, University of Victoria, P.O. Box 3065 STN CSC, Victoria, BC V8W 2Y2, Canada. Email: george.boer@ec.gc.ca

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