Evolution of carbon sinks in a changing climate. Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • Climate change is expected to influence the capacities of the land and oceans to act as repositories for anthropogenic CO2 and hence provide a feedback to climate change. A series of experiments with the National Center for Atmospheric Research-Climate System Model 1 coupled carbon-climate model shows that carbon sink strengths vary with the rate of fossil fuel emissions, so that carbon storage capacities of the land and oceans decrease and climate warming accelerates with faster CO2 emissions. Furthermore, there is a positive feedback between the carbon and climate systems, so that climate warming acts to increase the airborne fraction of anthropogenic CO2 and amplify the climate change itself. Globally, the amplification is small at the end of the 21st century in this model because of its low transient climate response and the near-cancellation between large regional changes in the hydrologic and ecosystem responses. Analysis of our results in the context of comparable models suggests that destabilization of the tropical land sink is qualitatively robust, although its degree is uncertain.

publication date

  • August 9, 2005