Importance of carbon dioxide physiological forcing to future climate change.


An increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO(2)) concentration influences climate both directly through its radiative effect (i.e., trapping longwave radiation) and indirectly through its physiological effect (i.e., reducing transpiration of land plants). Here we compare the climate response to radiative and physiological effects of increased CO(2) using the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) coupled Community Land and Community Atmosphere Model. In response to a doubling of CO(2), the radiative effect of CO(2) causes mean surface air temperature over land to increase by 2.86 +/- 0.02 K (+/- 1 standard error), whereas the physiological effects of CO(2) on land plants alone causes air temperature over land to increase by 0.42 +/- 0.02 K. Combined, these two effects cause a land surface warming of 3.33 +/- 0.03 K. The radiative effect of doubling CO(2) increases global runoff by 5.2 +/- 0.6%, primarily by increasing precipitation over the continents. The physiological effect increases runoff by 8.4 +/- 0.6%, primarily by diminishing evapotranspiration from the continents. Combined, these two effects cause a 14.9 +/- 0.7% increase in runoff. Relative humidity remains roughly constant in response to CO(2)-radiative forcing, whereas relative humidity over land decreases in response to CO(2)-physiological forcing as a result of reduced plant transpiration. Our study points to an emerging consensus that the physiological effects of increasing atmospheric CO(2) on land plants will increase global warming beyond that caused by the radiative effects of CO(2).

DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0913000107

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@article{Cao2010ImportanceOC, title={Importance of carbon dioxide physiological forcing to future climate change.}, author={Long Cao and Govindasamy Bala and Ken Caldeira and Ramakrishna R. Nemani and George Ban-Weiss}, journal={Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America}, year={2010}, volume={107 21}, pages={9513-8} }