Articles | Volume 7, issue 2
Research article
24 May 2016
Research article |  | 24 May 2016

Geoengineering as a design problem

Ben Kravitz, Douglas G. MacMartin, Hailong Wang, and Philip J. Rasch

Abstract. Understanding the climate impacts of solar geoengineering is essential for evaluating its benefits and risks. Most previous simulations have prescribed a particular strategy and evaluated its modeled effects. Here we turn this approach around by first choosing example climate objectives and then designing a strategy to meet those objectives in climate models.

There are four essential criteria for designing a strategy: (i) an explicit specification of the objectives, (ii) defining what climate forcing agents to modify so the objectives are met, (iii) a method for managing uncertainties, and (iv) independent verification of the strategy in an evaluation model.

We demonstrate this design perspective through two multi-objective examples. First, changes in Arctic temperature and the position of tropical precipitation due to CO2 increases are offset by adjusting high-latitude insolation in each hemisphere independently. Second, three different latitude-dependent patterns of insolation are modified to offset CO2-induced changes in global mean temperature, interhemispheric temperature asymmetry, and the Equator-to-pole temperature gradient. In both examples, the "design" and "evaluation" models are state-of-the-art fully coupled atmosphere–ocean general circulation models.

Short summary
Most simulations of solar geoengineering prescribe a particular strategy and evaluate its modeled effects. Here we first choose example climate objectives and then design a strategy to meet those objectives in climate models. We show that certain objectives can be met simultaneously even in the presence of uncertainty, and the strategy for meeting those objectives can be ported to other models. This is part of a broader illustration of how uncertainties in solar geoengineering can be managed.
Final-revised paper