Quantifying immediate radiative forcing by black carbon and organic matter with the Specific Forcing Pulse
1Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, USA
2Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA
3NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA
Abstract. We propose a measure to quantify climate warming or cooling by pollutants with atmospheric lifetimes of less than one year: the Specific Forcing Pulse (SFP). SFP is the amount of energy added to the Earth system per mass of pollutant emitted. Global average SFP for black carbon, including atmosphere and cryosphere, is 1.12 GJ g−1 and that for organic matter is −0.061 GJ g−1. We provide regional values for black carbon (BC) and organic matter (OM) emitted from 23 source-region combinations, divided between atmosphere and cryosphere impacts and identifying forcing by latitude. Regional SFP varies by about 40% for black carbon. This variation is relatively small because of compensating effects; particles from regions that affect ice albedo typically have shorter atmospheric lifetimes because of lower convection. The ratio between BC and OM SFP implies that, for direct forcing, an OM:BC mass ratio of 15 has a neutral effect on top-of-atmosphere direct forcing for any region, and any lower ratio induces direct warming. However, important processes, particularly cloud changes that tend toward cooling, have not been included here. We demonstrate ensemble adjustment, in which we produce a "best estimate" by combining a suite of diverse but simple models and enhanced models of greater complexity. Adjustments for black carbon internal mixing and for regional variability are discussed; regions with convection are implicated in greater model diversity. SFP expresses scientific uncertainty and separates it from policy uncertainty; the latter is caused by disagreements about the relevant time horizon, impact, or spatial scale of interest. However, metrics used in policy discussions, such as global warming potentials, are easily derived from SFP. Global-average SFP for biofuel and fossil fuel emissions translates to a 100-year GWP of about 760 for black carbon and −40 for organic matter when snow forcing is included. Ensemble-adjusted estimates of atmospheric radiative impact by black and organic matter using year 2000 emissions are +0.46 W m−2 and −0.17 W m−2, respectively; anthropogenic forcing is +0.38 W m−2 and −0.12 W m−2. The black carbon value is only 11% higher than that of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), although this value includes enhanced absorption due to internal mixing.