On the reduced lifetime of nitrous oxide due to climate change induced acceleration of the Brewer-Dobson circulation as simulated by the MPI Earth System Model
Abstract:Greenhouse gas induced climate change will modify the physical conditions of the atmosphere. One of the projected changes is an acceleration of the Brewer-Dobson circulation in the stratosphere, as it has been shown in many model studies. This change in the stratospheric circulation consequently bears an effect on the transport and distribution of atmospheric components such as N2O. Since N2O is involved in ozone destruction, a modified distribution of N2O can be of importance for ozone chemistry. N2O is inert in the troposphere and decays only in the stratosphere. Thus, changes in the exchange between troposphere and stratosphere can also affect the stratospheric sink of N2O, and consequently its atmospheric lifetime. N2O is a potent greenhouse gas with a global warming potential of currently approximately 300 CO2-equivalents in a 100-year perspective. A faster decay in atmospheric N2O mixing ratios, i.e. a decreased atmospheric lifetime of N2O, will also reduce its global warming potential.
In order to assess the impact of climate change on atmospheric circulation and implied effects on the distribution and lifetime of atmospheric N2O, we apply the Max Planck Institute Earth System Model, MPI-ESM. MPI-ESM consists of the atmospheric general circulation model ECHAM, the land surface model JSBACH, and MPIOM/HAMOCC representing ocean circulation and ocean biogeochemistry. Prognostic atmospheric N2O concentrations in MPI-ESM are determined by land N2O emissions, ocean-atmosphere N2O exchange and atmospheric tracer transport. As stratospheric chemistry is not explicitly represented in MPI-ESM, stratospheric decay rates of N2O are prescribed from a MACC MOZART simulation.
Increasing surface temperatures and CO2 concentrations in the stratosphere impact atmospheric circulation differently. Thus, we conduct a series of transient runs with the atmospheric model of MPI-ESM to isolate different factors governing a shift in atmospheric circulation. From those transient simulations we diagnose decreasing tropospheric N2O concentrations, increased transport of N2O from the troposphere to the stratosphere, and increasing stratospheric decay of N2O leading to a reduction in atmospheric lifetime of N2O, in dependency to climate change evolution.