The aridity, drought and biodiversity impacts of Solar Geoengineering

Theme: Earth, Atmosphere & Ocean Processes

Primary Supervisor:

Peter Irvine

Earth Sciences, UCL

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Secondary Supervisor:

Tim Newbold

Genetics, Evolution and Environment, UCL

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Additional Supervisor(s):

Julienne Stroeve (UCL)

Project Description:

Stratospheric aerosol geoengineering is a proposal to create a global layer of aerosol particles which would reflect a small fraction of incoming light back to space. We know from observing the effects of major volcanic eruptions that this could cool the Earth substantially but that it would also have a significant impact on the hydrological cycle.

In this PhD project, you will evaluate the hydrological impacts of stratospheric aerosol geoengineering on society and ecosystems. You will evaluate drought and aridity changes from a range of different perspectives: meteorological (how much precipitation is there?), hydrological (how much river run off is there?), and agro-ecological (how is vegetation faring?). You will assess these hydrological changes using output from the latest generation of climate models and in offline land model simulations.

Most projections of the biodiversity impacts of climate change take only a meteorological perspective on climate change, focusing on temperature and precipitation alone, an assumption that may perform poorly for stratospheric aerosol geoengineering scenarios. By considering a broader set of perspectives on aridity, you would also be able to make improved projections of the biodiversity impacts of climate change and stratospheric aerosol geoengineering.

Policy Impact of Research:

To make informed policy decisions on solar geoengineering will require understanding its risks and benefits. This PhD project would advance our understanding of the hydrological impacts of stratospheric aerosol geoengineering on society and ecosystems, which are a key uncertainty. Communicating these findings could have a substantial policy impact.


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