The role of carbonyl sulphide as a source of stratospheric sulphate aerosol and its impact on climate
1Atmospheric Chemistry Department, Max-Planck-Institute for Chemistry, Mainz, Germany
2Institute for Physics of the Atmosphere, Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany
3The Cyprus Institute, Nicosia, Cyprus, and King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Abstract. Globally, carbonyl sulphide (COS) is the most abundant sulphur gas in the atmosphere. Our chemistry-climate model of the lower and middle atmosphere with aerosol module realistically simulates the background stratospheric sulphur cycle, as observed by satellites in volcanically quiescent periods. The model results indicate that upward transport of COS from the troposphere largely controls the sulphur budget and the aerosol loading of the background stratosphere. This differs from most previous studies which indicated that short-lived sulphur gases are also important. The model realistically simulates the modulation of the particulate and gaseous sulphur abundance in the stratosphere by the quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO). In the lowermost stratosphere organic carbon aerosol contributes significantly to extinction. Further, we compute that the radiative forcing efficiency by 1 kg of COS is 724 times that of 1 kg CO2, which translates into an overall radiative forcing by anthropogenic COS of 0.003 W m−2. The global warming potentials of COS over time horizons of 20 and 100 yr are GWP(20 yr) = 97 and GWP(100 yr) = 27, respectively (by mass). Furthermore, stratospheric aerosol particles produced by the photolysis of COS contribute to a negative radiative forcing, which amounts to −0.007 W m−2 at the top of the atmosphere for the anthropogenic fraction, more than two times the warming forcing of COS. Considering that the lifetime of COS is twice that of stratospheric aerosols the warming and cooling tendencies approximately cancel. If the forcing of the troposphere near the tropopause is considered, the cooling dominates.