Attributing Historical and Future Evolution of Radiative Feedbacks to Regional Warming Patterns using a Green’s Function Approach: The Preeminence of the Western Pacific

Yue Dong Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

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Cristian Proistosescu Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and the Ocean, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

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Kyle C. Armour Department of Atmospheric Sciences, and School of Oceanography, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

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David S. Battisti Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

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Abstract

Global radiative feedbacks have been found to vary in global climate model (GCM) simulations. Atmospheric GCMs (AGCMs) driven with historical patterns of sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and sea ice concentrations produce radiative feedbacks that trend toward more negative values, implying low climate sensitivity, over recent decades. Freely evolving coupled GCMs driven by increasing CO2 produce radiative feedbacks that trend toward more positive values, implying increasing climate sensitivity, in the future. While this time variation in feedbacks has been linked to evolving SST patterns, the role of particular regions has not been quantified. Here, a Green’s function is derived from a suite of simulations within an AGCM (NCAR’s CAM4), allowing an attribution of global feedback changes to surface warming in each region. The results highlight the radiative response to surface warming in ascent regions of the western tropical Pacific as the dominant control on global radiative feedback changes. Historical warming from the 1950s to 2000s preferentially occurred in the western Pacific, yielding a strong global outgoing radiative response at the top of the atmosphere (TOA) and thus a strongly negative global feedback. Long-term warming in coupled GCMs occurs preferentially in tropical descent regions and in high latitudes, where surface warming yields small global TOA radiation change but large global surface air temperature change, and thus a less-negative global feedback. These results illuminate the importance of determining mechanisms of warm pool warming for understanding how feedbacks have varied historically and will evolve in the future.

© 2019 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: Yue Dong, dongy24@uw.edu

Abstract

Global radiative feedbacks have been found to vary in global climate model (GCM) simulations. Atmospheric GCMs (AGCMs) driven with historical patterns of sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and sea ice concentrations produce radiative feedbacks that trend toward more negative values, implying low climate sensitivity, over recent decades. Freely evolving coupled GCMs driven by increasing CO2 produce radiative feedbacks that trend toward more positive values, implying increasing climate sensitivity, in the future. While this time variation in feedbacks has been linked to evolving SST patterns, the role of particular regions has not been quantified. Here, a Green’s function is derived from a suite of simulations within an AGCM (NCAR’s CAM4), allowing an attribution of global feedback changes to surface warming in each region. The results highlight the radiative response to surface warming in ascent regions of the western tropical Pacific as the dominant control on global radiative feedback changes. Historical warming from the 1950s to 2000s preferentially occurred in the western Pacific, yielding a strong global outgoing radiative response at the top of the atmosphere (TOA) and thus a strongly negative global feedback. Long-term warming in coupled GCMs occurs preferentially in tropical descent regions and in high latitudes, where surface warming yields small global TOA radiation change but large global surface air temperature change, and thus a less-negative global feedback. These results illuminate the importance of determining mechanisms of warm pool warming for understanding how feedbacks have varied historically and will evolve in the future.

© 2019 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: Yue Dong, dongy24@uw.edu
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