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Climate of the Past An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 7, issue 1 | Copyright
Clim. Past, 7, 17-25, 2011
https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-7-17-2011
© Author(s) 2011. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 10 Jan 2011

Research article | 10 Jan 2011

Model-dependence of the CO2 threshold for melting the hard Snowball Earth

Y. Hu1, J. Yang1, F. Ding1, and W. R. Peltier2 Y. Hu et al.
  • 1Laboratory for Climate and Ocean-Atmosphere Studies, Dept. of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, School of Physics, Peking University, 100871, Beijing, China
  • 2Department of Physics, University of Toronto, 60 St. George Street, M5S 1A7, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Abstract. One of the critical issues of the Snowball Earth hypothesis is the CO2 threshold for triggering the deglaciation. Using Community Atmospheric Model version 3.0 (CAM3), we study the problem for the CO2 threshold. Our simulations show large differences from previous results (e.g. Pierrehumbert, 2004, 2005; Le Hir et al., 2007). At 0.2 bars of CO2, the January maximum near-surface temperature is about 268 K, about 13 K higher than that in Pierrehumbert (2004, 2005), but lower than the value of 270 K for 0.1 bar of CO2 in Le Hir et al. (2007). It is found that the difference of simulation results is mainly due to model sensitivity of greenhouse effect and longwave cloud forcing to increasing CO2. At 0.2 bars of CO2, CAM3 yields 117 Wm−2 of clear-sky greenhouse effect and 32 Wm−2 of longwave cloud forcing, versus only about 77 Wm−2 and 10.5 Wm−2 in Pierrehumbert (2004, 2005), respectively. CAM3 has comparable clear-sky greenhouse effect to that in Le Hir et al. (2007), but lower longwave cloud forcing. CAM3 also produces much stronger Hadley cells than that in Pierrehumbert (2005).

Effects of pressure broadening and collision-induced absorption are also studied using a radiative-convective model and CAM3. Both effects substantially increase surface temperature and thus lower the CO2 threshold. The radiative-convective model yields a CO2 threshold of about 0.21 bars with surface albedo of 0.663. Without considering the effects of pressure broadening and collision-induced absorption, CAM3 yields an approximate CO2 threshold of about 1.0 bar for surface albedo of about 0.6. However, the threshold is lowered to 0.38 bars as both effects are considered.

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