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The Spectral Dimension of Modeled Relative Humidity Feedbacks in the CMIP5 Experiments

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  • 1 NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia
  • | 2 Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, Michigan
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Abstract

The spectral radiative kernel technique is used to derive spectrally resolved relative humidity (RH) feedbacks for 16 GCMs that participated in CMIP5. Examining spectral and spatial details of these RH feedbacks leads to three findings. First, while the global average of broadband RH feedbacks is close to zero for all the GCMs, there exist wide discrepancies in the spectral details among the GCMs. Second, the spatial pattern of the RH feedbacks varies with spectral frequency; for a given frequency, the spatial feedback pattern correlates well with the spatial pattern of RH changes over the vertical layer to which the top-of-atmosphere spectral flux at the same frequency is most sensitive. Third, the nearly zero global average of broadband RH feedback is a result of spatial compensation and spectral compensation. Since GCMs have produced consistent RH feedbacks and RH changes to a large extent in the high latitudes, the tropical Atlantic, and the deep tropical Pacific, radiative RH kernels are further used to infer mean changes in RH vertical profiles from spectral RH feedbacks averaged over the three broad regions. Good agreements are demonstrated by comparing such inferences against the actual RH changes in the GCMs. This study suggests that the spectral dimension of RH feedback could provide an additional constraint to climate models and the understanding of vertical features of RH changes when they are obtainable from future observations.

© 2018 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Dr. Fang Pan, fangpan@umich.edu

Abstract

The spectral radiative kernel technique is used to derive spectrally resolved relative humidity (RH) feedbacks for 16 GCMs that participated in CMIP5. Examining spectral and spatial details of these RH feedbacks leads to three findings. First, while the global average of broadband RH feedbacks is close to zero for all the GCMs, there exist wide discrepancies in the spectral details among the GCMs. Second, the spatial pattern of the RH feedbacks varies with spectral frequency; for a given frequency, the spatial feedback pattern correlates well with the spatial pattern of RH changes over the vertical layer to which the top-of-atmosphere spectral flux at the same frequency is most sensitive. Third, the nearly zero global average of broadband RH feedback is a result of spatial compensation and spectral compensation. Since GCMs have produced consistent RH feedbacks and RH changes to a large extent in the high latitudes, the tropical Atlantic, and the deep tropical Pacific, radiative RH kernels are further used to infer mean changes in RH vertical profiles from spectral RH feedbacks averaged over the three broad regions. Good agreements are demonstrated by comparing such inferences against the actual RH changes in the GCMs. This study suggests that the spectral dimension of RH feedback could provide an additional constraint to climate models and the understanding of vertical features of RH changes when they are obtainable from future observations.

© 2018 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Dr. Fang Pan, fangpan@umich.edu
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