Effects of declining aerosols on projections of zonally averaged tropical precipitation
All of the Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) assume that future emissions of aerosols and aerosol precursors will decline sharply. There is considerable evidence that historically increasing aerosols have substantially affected tropical precipitation, but the effects of projected aerosol declines have received little attention. We compare projections forced by the medium-low RCP4.5 pathway in two subsets of models from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5): one group (HiForc) includes treatments of indirect aerosol effects on cloud albedo and cloud lifetime as well as direct aerosol effects, while the other group (LoForc) only treats direct aerosol effects.
We find that models in the HiForc group consistently project larger increases in both the mean and inter-hemispheric (north minus south) asymmetry of tropical sea-surface temperature and precipitation than do models in the LoForc group. Earlier projections from CMIP3, in which future aerosol declines were assumed to be smaller, behave more like the CMIP5 LoForc group. These results show that projected tropical sea-surface temperature and precipitation changes are sensitive to assumptions about aerosol emissions and indirect aerosol effects.