Quantifying contributions of climate feedbacks to tropospheric warming in the NCAR CCSM3.0

TitleQuantifying contributions of climate feedbacks to tropospheric warming in the NCAR CCSM3.0
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsSong X.L, Zhang GJ, Cai M
JournalClimate Dynamics
Date Published2014/02
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number0930-7575
Accession NumberWOS:000330731300020
Keywordsarctic sea-ice; Climate feedback; Climate feedback-response analysis method; Convective; formulation; general-circulation model; greenhouse-plus feedback; part ii; polar amplification; process; sensitivity; Spatial pattern; Tropospheric warming; version-3 ccsm3; vertical structure; water-vapor

In this study, a coupled atmosphere-surface "climate feedback-response analysis method" (CFRAM) was applied to the slab ocean model version of the NCAR CCSM3.0 to understand the tropospheric warming due to a doubling of CO2 concentration through quantifying the contributions of each climate feedback process. It is shown that the tropospheric warming displays distinct meridional and vertical patterns that are in a good agreement with the multi-model mean projection from the IPCC AR4. In the tropics, the warming in the upper troposphere is stronger than in the lower troposphere, leading to a decrease in temperature lapse rate, whereas in high latitudes the opposite it true. In terms of meridional contrast, the lower tropospheric warming in the tropics is weaker than that in high latitudes, resulting in a weakened meridional temperature gradient. In the upper troposphere the meridional temperature gradient is enhanced due to much stronger warming in the tropics than in high latitudes. Using the CFRAM method, we analyzed both radiative feedbacks, which have been emphasized in previous climate feedback analysis, and non-radiative feedbacks. It is shown that non-radiative (radiative) feedbacks are the major contributors to the temperature lapse rate decrease (increase) in the tropical (polar) region. Atmospheric convection is the leading contributor to temperature lapse rate decrease in the tropics. The cloud feedback also has non-negligible contributions. In the polar region, water vapor feedback is the main contributor to the temperature lapse rate increase, followed by albedo feedback and CO2 forcing. The decrease of meridional temperature gradient in the lower troposphere is mainly due to strong cooling from convection and cloud feedback in the tropics and the strong warming from albedo feedback in the polar region. The strengthening of meridional temperature gradient in the upper troposphere can be attributed to the warming associated with convection and cloud feedback in the tropics. Since convection is the leading contributor to the warming differences between tropical lower and upper troposphere, and between the tropical and polar regions, this study indicates that tropical convection plays a critical role in determining the climate sensitivity. In addition, the CFRAM analysis shows that convective process and water vapor feedback are the two major contributors to the tropical upper troposphere temperature change, indicating that the excessive upper tropospheric warming in the IPCC AR4 models may be due to overestimated warming from convective process or underestimated cooling due to water vapor feedback.

Short TitleClim. Dyn.
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