Solar radiation management geoengineering and the Greenland Ice Sheet

Monday, 15 December 2014
Patrick J Applegate, Pennsylvania State University Main Campus, Earth and Environmental Systems Institute, University Park, PA, United States and Klaus Keller, Pennsylvania State University Main Campus, Geosciences, University Park, PA, United States; Carnegie Mellon University, Engineering and Public Policy, Pittsburgh, PA, United States
Several authors have suggested that technologies for modifying the Earth's climate should be developed so that they can be deployed if a climate emergency seems imminent. These technologies are generally called geoengineering, or climate engineering. Solar radiation management is perhaps the most commonly discussed geoengineering technique. It involves lofting reflective particles into the upper atmosphere, in imitation of explosive volcanic eruptions that produce measurable cooling at the Earth's surface. Given that geoengineering is intended to reduce surface air temperatures, some authors suggest that it could be used to prevent sea level rise from ice sheet mass loss. The Greenland Ice Sheet is an obvious target for geoengineering-based efforts to avoid sea level rise, because it is large and vulnerable to surface air temperature increases. To evaluate this possibility, we use a three-dimensional, shallow-ice sheet model (SICOPOLIS; sicopolis.greveweb.net) to examine the ability of geoengineering to reduce sea level contributions from the Greenland Ice Sheet. Although this model is highly simplified, its speed of execution allows us to investigate many different potential geoengineering scenarios, covering tens of thousands of model years (excluding spinup). We examine stylized geoengineering scenarios, including both aggressive, sustained geoengineering and more moderate efforts. We comment on the implications of our model results for the ability of geoengineering to reduce future ice sheet-driven sea level change, and how our results might change if our experiments were repeated with a more sophisticated ice sheet model.