Exploring the Effects of Solar Radiation Management on Water Cycling in a Coupled Land-Atmosphere Model


Solar radiation management (SRM) has been proposed as a form of geoengineering to reduce the climate effects of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Modeling studies have concluded that SRM, through a reduction in total solar irradiance by approximately 2%, roughly compensates for global mean temperature changes from a doubling of carbon dioxide concentrations. This paper examines the impact of SRM on the terrestrial hydrologic cycle using the Community Land Model, version 4, coupled to the Community Atmosphere Model, version 4, with reductions in solar radiation relative to simulations with present-day and elevated CO2 concentrations. There are significant global and regional impacts due to vegetation–climate interactions that are not compensated when reductions in total solar irradiance of 1%, 2%, and 3% are imposed on top of a doubling of present-day CO2 concentrations. Water cycling slows down under SRM, including decreases in global mean precipitation and evapotranspiration. Changes in runoff and soil moisture are spatially and temporally variable, with implications for local water availability. In the tropics, evapotranspiration decreases because of increases in vegetation water use efficiency. In northern midlatitudes, soil moisture increases when evapotranspiration decreases, with some exceptions during boreal summer. Changes in soil evaporation influence water cycling in the southern subtropics, rather than changes in transpiration. The hydrologic response to SRM is nonlinear, with global mean decreases greater than expected. These results imply that SRM may not compensate for higher greenhouse gas concentrations when one considers land–atmosphere interactions.

Last updated on 12/15/2016