Assessing the benefits of crop albedo bio-geoengineering
Singarayer, J. S., Ridgwell, A. and Irvine, P. (2009) Assessing the benefits of crop albedo bio-geoengineering. Environmental Research Letters, 4 (4). 045110. ISSN 1748-9326
To link to this article DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/4/4/045110
It has been proposed that growing crop varieties with higher canopy albedo would lower summer-time temperatures over North America and Eurasia and provide a partial mitigation of global warming ('bio-geoengineering') (Ridgwell et al 2009 Curr. Biol. 19 1–5). Here, we use a coupled ocean–atmosphere–vegetation model (HadCM3) with prescribed agricultural regions, to investigate to what extent the regional effectiveness of crop albedo bio-geoengineering might be influenced by a progressively warming climate as well as assessing the impacts on regional hydrological cycling and primary productivity. Consistent with previous analysis, we find that the averted warming due to increasing crop canopy albedo by 0.04 is regionally and seasonally specific, with the largest cooling of ~1 °C for Europe in summer whereas in the low latitude monsoonal SE Asian regions of high density cropland, the greatest cooling is experienced in winter. In this study we identify potentially important positive impacts of increasing crop canopy albedo on soil moisture and primary productivity in European cropland regions, due to seasonal increases in precipitation. We also find that the background climate state has an important influence on the predicted regional effectiveness of bio-geoengineering on societally-relevant timescales (ca 100 years). The degree of natural climate variability and its dependence on greenhouse forcing that are evident in our simulations highlights the difficulties faced in the detection and verification of climate mitigation in geoengineering schemes. However, despite the small global impact, regionally focused schemes such as crop albedo bio-geoengineering have detection advantages.