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Journal Article

Time-scale and state dependence of the carbon-cycle feedback to climate


Dalmonech,  Daniela
Terrestrial Biosphere Modelling & Data assimilation, Dr. S. Zähle, Department Biogeochemical Systems, Prof. M. Heimann, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Max Planck Society;

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Willeit, M., Ganopolski, A., Dalmonech, D., Foley, A. M., & Feulner, G. (2014). Time-scale and state dependence of the carbon-cycle feedback to climate. Climate Dynamics, 42(7-8), 1699-1713. doi:10.1007/s00382-014-2102-z.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0019-78BD-5
Climate and atmospheric CO2 concentration are intimately coupled in the Earth system: CO2 influences climate through the greenhouse effect, but climate also affects CO2 through its impact on the amount of carbon stored on land and in the ocean. The change in atmospheric CO2 as a response to a change in temperature (DCO2=DT) is a useful measure to quantify the feedback between the carbon cycle and climate. Using an ensemble of experiments with an Earth system model of intermediate complexity we show a pronounced time-scale dependence of DCO2=DT. A maximum is found on centennial scales with DCO2=DT values for the model ensemble in the range 5–12 ppm C-1, while lower values are found on shorter and longer time scales. These results are consistent with estimates derived from past observations. Up to centennial scales, the land carbon response to climate dominates the CO2 signal in the atmosphere, while on longer time scales the ocean becomes important and eventually dominates on multi-millennial scales. In addition to the time-scale dependence, modeled DCO2=DT show a distinct dependence on the initial state of the system. In particular, on centennial time-scales, high DCO2=DT values are correlated with high initial land carbon content. A similar relation holds also for the CMIP5 models, although for DCO2=DT computed from a very different experimental setup. The emergence of common patterns like this could prove to usefully constrain the climate–carbon cycle feedback.