Simulation of the climate impact of Mt. Pinatubo eruption using ECHAM5-Part 1: Sensitivity to the modes of atmospheric circulation and boundary conditions

M. A. Thomas, C. Timmreck, M. A. Giorgetta, H. F. Graf, G. Stenchikov

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31 Scopus citations


The eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines in June 1991 was one of the strongest volcanic eruptions in the 20th century and this well observed eruption can serve as an important case study to understand the subsequent weather and climate changes. In this paper, the most comprehensive simulations to date of the climate impact of Mt. Pinatubo eruption are carried out with prescribed volcanic aerosols including observed SSTs, QBO and volcanically induced ozone anomalies. This is also the first attempt to include all the known factors for the simulation of such an experiment. Here, the climate response is evaluated under different boundary conditions including one at a time, thereby, investigating the radiative and dynamical responses to individual and combined forcings by observed SSTs, QBO and volcanic effects. Two ensembles of ten members each, for unperturbed and volcanically perturbed conditions were carried out using the middle atmosphere configuration of ECHAM5 general circulation model. Our results show that the simulated climate response that may arise solely from aerosol forcing in lower stratospheric temperature is insensitive to the boundary conditions in the tropics and does not show some observed features such as the temperature signature of the QBO phases. Also, statistically signifi-cant positive anomalies in the high latitudes in NH winter of 1991/92 seen in our model simulations with prescribed observed SST and QBO phases as boundary conditions are consistent with the observations. To simulate realistically the lower stratospheric temperature response, one must include all the known factors. The pure QBO and ocean signatures in lower stratospheric temperature are simulated con-istently with earlier studies. The indirect effect of the volcanic aerosols manifested as the winter warming pattern is not simulated in the ensemble mean of the experiments. Our analysis also shows that the response to El Niño conditions is very strong in the model and that it partially masks the effects due to volcanic forcing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)757-769
Number of pages13
JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 16 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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