Abstract

We have analyzed the effects of radiatively active clouds on the climate simulated by the UCLA/GLA GCM, with particular attention to the effects of the upper tropospheric stratiform clouds associated with deep cumulus convection, and the interactions of these clouds with convection and the large-scale circulation.

Several numerical experiments have been performed to investigate the mechanisms through which the clouds influence the large-scale circulation. In the “NODETLQ” experiment, no liquid water or ice was detrained from cumulus clouds into the environment; all of the condensate was rained out. Upper level supersaturation cloudiness was drastically reduced, the atmosphere dried, and tropical outgoing longwave radiation increased. In the “NOANVIL” experiment, the radiative effects of the optically thich upper-level cloud sheets associated with deep cumulus convection were neglected. The land surface received more solar radiation in regions of convection, leading to enhanced surface fluxes and a dramatic increase in precipitation. In the “NOCRF” experiment, the longwave atmospheric cloud radiative forcing (ACRF) was omitted, paralleling the recent experiment of Slingo and Slingo. The results suggest that the ACRF enhances deep penetrative convection and precipitation, while suppressing shallow convection. They also indicate that the ACRF warms and moistens the tropical troposphere. The results of this experiment are somewhat ambiguous, however; for example, the ACRF suppresses precipitation in some parts of the tropics, and enhances it in others.

To isolate the effects of the ACRF in a simpler setting, we have analyzed the climate of an ocean-covered Earth, which we call Seaworld. The key simplicities of Seaworld are the fixed boundary temperature with no land points, the lack of mountains, and the zonal uniformity of the boundary conditions. Results are presented from two Seaworld simulations. The first includes a full suite of physical parameterizations, while the second omits all radiative effects of the clouds. The differences between the two runs are, therefore, entirely due to the direct and indirect and indirect effects of the ACRF. Results show that the ACRF in the cloudy run accurately represents the radiative heating perturbation relative to the cloud-free run. The cloudy run is warmer in the middle troposphere, contains much more precipitable water, and has about 15% more globally averaged precipitation. There is a double tropical rain band in the cloud-free run, and a single, more intense tropical rain band in the cloudy run. The cloud-free run produces relatively weak but frequent cumulus convection, while the cloudy run produces relatively intense but infrequent convection. The mean meridional circulation transport nearly twice as much mass in the cloudy run. The increased tropical rising motion in the cloudy run leads to a deeper boundary layer and also to more moisture in the troposphere above the boundary layer. This accounts for the increased precipitable water content of the atmosphere. The clouds lead to an increase in the intensity of the tropical easterlies, and cause the midlatitude westerly jets to shift equatorward.

Taken together, our results show that upper tropospheric clouds associated with moist convection, whose importance has recently been emphasized in observational studies, play a very complex and powerful role in determining the model results. This points to a need to develop more realistic parameterizations of these clouds.

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