No Emergency Brake: Slow Ocean Response to Abrupt Stratospheric Aerosol Injection

Research output: Working paperPreprintAcademic


Given the possibility of irreversible changes to the Earth system, technological interventions such as solar radiation management (SRM) are sometimes framed as possible climate emergency brakes. However, little knowledge exists on the efficacy of such disruptive interventions. To fill in this gap, we perform Community Earth System Model 2 (CESM 2) simulations of a SSP5-8.5 scenario on which we impose either gradual early-century SRM to stabilise surface temperatures or a rapid late-century cooling, both realised via stratospheric aerosol injection (SAI). While both scenarios cool Earth’s surface, we find that ocean conditions differ drastically. The rapid-cooling scenario fails to dissipate sub-surface ocean heat content (OHC), ends up in a weaker AMOC state and does not restore an ailing North Atlantic deep convection. Furthermore, the weakened AMOC state mediates the climate response to rapid SAI, thus inducing an interhemispheric temperature asymmetry. Our results advise caution when considering SAI as an emergency intervention.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherESS Open Archive
Number of pages31
Publication statusPublished - 11 Sept 2023


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