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Abstract

As atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations rise and climate change becomes more destructive, geoengineering has become a subject of serious consideration. By reflecting a fraction of incoming sunlight, solar geoengineering could cool the planet quickly, but with uncertain effects on regional climatology, particularly hydrological patterns. Here, we review recent work on projected hydrologic outcomes of solar geoengineering, in the context of a robust literature on hydrological responses to climate change. While most approaches to solar geoengineering are expected to weaken the global hydrologic cycle, regional effects will vary based on implementation method and strategy. The literature on the hydrologic outcomes and impacts of geoengineering demonstrates that its implications for human welfare will depend on assumptions about underlying social conditions and objectives of intervention as well as the social lens through which projected effects are interpreted. We conclude with suggestions to reduce decision-relevant uncertainties in this novel field of Earth science inquiry.

  • ▪  The expected hydrological effects of reducing insolation are among the most uncertain and consequential impacts of solar geoengineering (SG).
  • ▪  Theoretical frameworks from broader climate science can help explain SG's effects on global precipitation, relative humidity, and other aspects of hydroclimate.
  • ▪  The state of the knowledge on hydrological impacts of SG is unevenly concentrated among regions.
  • ▪  Projected hydrological impacts from SG are scenario dependent and difficult to characterize as either harmful or beneficial.

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2023-05-31
2024-04-21
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