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Climate Feedbacks in CCSM3 under Changing CO2 Forcing. Part II: Variation of Climate Feedbacks and Sensitivity with Forcing

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  • 1 Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon
  • | 2 National Center for Atmospheric Research,* Boulder, Colorado
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Abstract

Are equilibrium climate sensitivity and the associated radiative feedbacks a constant property of the climate system, or do they change with forcing magnitude and base climate? Using the radiative kernel technique, feedbacks and climate sensitivity are evaluated in a fully coupled general circulation model (GCM) for three successive doublings of carbon dioxide starting from present-day concentrations. Climate sensitivity increases by 23% between the first and third CO2 doublings. Increases in the positive water vapor and cloud feedbacks are partially balanced by a decrease in the positive surface albedo feedback and an increase in the negative lapse rate feedback. Feedbacks can be decomposed into a radiative flux change and a climate variable response to temperature change. The changes in water vapor and Planck feedbacks are due largely to changes in the radiative response with climate state. Higher concentrations of greenhouse gases and higher temperatures lead to more absorption and emission of longwave radiation. Changes in cloud feedbacks are dominated by the climate response to temperature change, while the lapse rate and albedo feedbacks combine elements of both. Simulations with a slab ocean model (SOM) version of the GCM are used to verify whether an SOM-GCM accurately reproduces the behavior of the fully coupled model. Although feedbacks differ in magnitude between model configurations (with differences as large as those between CO2 doublings for some feedbacks), changes in feedbacks between CO2 doublings are consistent in sign and magnitude in the SOM-GCM and the fully coupled model.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research is sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

Corresponding author address: Alexandra K. Jonko, College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, 104 CEOAS Admin. Bldg., Corvallis, OR 97331-5503. E-mail: ajonko@coas.oregonstate.edu

Abstract

Are equilibrium climate sensitivity and the associated radiative feedbacks a constant property of the climate system, or do they change with forcing magnitude and base climate? Using the radiative kernel technique, feedbacks and climate sensitivity are evaluated in a fully coupled general circulation model (GCM) for three successive doublings of carbon dioxide starting from present-day concentrations. Climate sensitivity increases by 23% between the first and third CO2 doublings. Increases in the positive water vapor and cloud feedbacks are partially balanced by a decrease in the positive surface albedo feedback and an increase in the negative lapse rate feedback. Feedbacks can be decomposed into a radiative flux change and a climate variable response to temperature change. The changes in water vapor and Planck feedbacks are due largely to changes in the radiative response with climate state. Higher concentrations of greenhouse gases and higher temperatures lead to more absorption and emission of longwave radiation. Changes in cloud feedbacks are dominated by the climate response to temperature change, while the lapse rate and albedo feedbacks combine elements of both. Simulations with a slab ocean model (SOM) version of the GCM are used to verify whether an SOM-GCM accurately reproduces the behavior of the fully coupled model. Although feedbacks differ in magnitude between model configurations (with differences as large as those between CO2 doublings for some feedbacks), changes in feedbacks between CO2 doublings are consistent in sign and magnitude in the SOM-GCM and the fully coupled model.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research is sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

Corresponding author address: Alexandra K. Jonko, College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, 104 CEOAS Admin. Bldg., Corvallis, OR 97331-5503. E-mail: ajonko@coas.oregonstate.edu
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