Dependence of climate response on meridional structure of external thermal forcing

TitleDependence of climate response on meridional structure of external thermal forcing
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsKang S.M, Xie SP
JournalJournal of Climate
Date Published2014/07
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number0894-8755
Accession NumberWOS:000339135200023
Keywordsamplification; aquaplanet; atmosphere; circulation; gcm; models; radiative feedbacks; sensitivity

This study shows that the magnitude of global surface warming greatly depends on the meridional distribution of surface thermal forcing. An atmospheric model coupled to an aquaplanet slab mixed layer ocean is perturbed by prescribing heating to the ocean mixed layer. The heating is distributed uniformly globally or confined to narrow tropical or polar bands, and the amplitude is adjusted to ensure that the global mean remains the same for all cases. Since the tropical temperature is close to a moist adiabat, the prescribed heating leads to a maximized warming near the tropopause, whereas the polar warming is trapped near the surface because of strong atmospheric stability. Hence, the surface warming is more effectively damped by radiation in the tropics than in the polar region. As a result, the global surface temperature increase is weak (strong) when the given amount of heating is confined to the tropical (polar) band. The degree of this contrast is shown to depend on water vapor- and cloud-radiative feedbacks that alter the effective strength of prescribed thermal forcing.

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