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  • Author or Editor: Anthony D. Del Genio x
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Michael P. Jensen
and
Anthony D. Del Genio

Abstract

Cumulus congestus clouds, with moderate shortwave albedos and cloud-top temperatures near freezing, occur fairly often in the Tropics. These clouds may play an important role in the evolution of the Madden–Julian oscillation and the regulation of relative humidity in the midtroposphere. Despite this importance they are not necessarily simulated very well in global climate models. Surface remote sensing observations and soundings from the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) climate research facility at Nauru Island are coupled with a simple parcel model in order to address the following questions about these cloud types: 1) Which environmental factors play a role in determining the depth of tropical convective clouds? 2) What environmental parameters are related to entrainment rate in cumulus congestus clouds? The results presented herein suggest that at Nauru Island a drying of the midtroposphere is more likely to be responsible for limiting congestus cloud-top heights than is a stabilizing of the freezing level. It is also found that low-level CAPE and the RH profile account for the largest portion of the variance in cumulus congestus entrainment rates, consistent with the idea that entrainment rate depends on the buoyant production of turbulent kinetic energy. If the analysis is limited to cases where there is a sounding during the hour preceding the cumulus congestus observations, it is found that the low-level CAPE accounts for 85% of the total variance in entrainment rate.

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Anthony D. Del Genio
,
Jingbo Wu
, and
Yonghua Chen

Abstract

Compared to satellite-derived heating profiles, the Goddard Institute for Space Studies general circulation model (GCM) convective heating is too deep and its stratiform upper-level heating is too weak. This deficiency highlights the need for GCMs to parameterize the mesoscale organization of convection. Cloud-resolving model simulations of convection near Darwin, Australia, in weak wind shear environments of different humidities are used to characterize mesoscale organization processes and to provide parameterization guidance. Downdraft cold pools appear to stimulate further deep convection both through their effect on eddy size and vertical velocity. Anomalously humid air surrounds updrafts, reducing the efficacy of entrainment. Recovery of cold pool properties to ambient conditions over 5–6 h proceeds differently over land and ocean. Over ocean increased surface fluxes restore the cold pool to prestorm conditions. Over land surface fluxes are suppressed in the cold pool region; temperature decreases and humidity increases, and both then remain nearly constant, while the undisturbed environment cools diurnally. The upper-troposphere stratiform rain region area lags convection by 5–6 h under humid active monsoon conditions but by only 1–2 h during drier break periods, suggesting that mesoscale organization is more readily sustained in a humid environment. Stratiform region hydrometeor mixing ratio lags convection by 0–2 h, suggesting that it is strongly influenced by detrainment from convective updrafts. Small stratiform region temperature anomalies suggest that a mesoscale updraft parameterization initialized with properties of buoyant detrained air and evolving to a balance between diabatic heating and adiabatic cooling might be a plausible approach for GCMs.

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Mao-Sung Yao
and
Anthony D. Del Genio

Abstract

Climate changes obtained from five doubled CO2 experiments with different parameterizations of large-scale clouds and moist convection are studied by use of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) GCM at 4° lat × 5° long resolution. The baseline for the experiments is GISS Model II, which uses a diagnostic cloud scheme with fixed optical properties and a convection scheme with fixed cumulus mass fluxes and no downdrafts. The global and annual mean surface air temperature change (ΔT s ) of 4.2°C obtained by using the Model II physics at 8° lat × 10° long resolution is reduced to 3.55°C at the finer resolution. This is due to a significant reduction of tropical cirrus clouds in the warmer climate when a finer resolution is used, despite the fact that the relative humidity increases there with a doubling of CO2. When the new moist convection parameterization of and prognostic large-scale cloud parameterization of are used, ΔT s is reduced to 3.09°C from 3.55°C. This is the net result of the inclusion of the feedback of cloud optical thickness and phase change of cloud water, and the presence of areally extensive cumulus anvil clouds. Without the optical thickness feedback, ΔT s is further reduced to 2.74°C, suggesting that this feedback is positive overall. Without anvil clouds, ΔT s is increased from 3.09° to 3.7°C, suggesting that anvil clouds of large optical thickness reduce the climate sensitivity. The net effect of using the new large-scale cloud parameterization without including the detrainment of convective cloud water is a slight increase of ΔT s from 3.56° to 3.7°C. The net effect of using the new moist convection parameterization without anvil clouds is insignificant (from 3.55° to 3.56°C). However, this is a result of a combination of many competing differences in other climate parameters. Despite the global cloud cover decrease simulated in most of the experiments, middle- and high-latitude continental cloudiness generally increases with warming, consistent with the sense of observed twentieth-century cloudiness trends; an indirect aerosol effect may therefore not be the sole explanation of these observations.

An analysis of climate sensitivity and changes in cloud radiative forcing (CRF) indicates that the cloud feedback is positive overall in all experiments except the one using the new moist convection and large-scale cloud parameterization with prescribed cloud optical thickness, for which the cloud feedback is nearly neutral. Differences in ΔCRF among the different experiments cannot reliably be anticipated by the analogous differences in current climate CRF. The meridional distribution of ΔCRF suggests that the cloud feedback is positive mostly in the low and midlatitudes, but in the high latitudes, the cloud feedback is mostly negative and the amplification of ΔT s is due to other processes, such as snow/ice–albedo feedback and changes in the lapse rate. The authors’ results suggest that when a sufficiently large variety of cloud feedback mechanisms are allowed for, significant cancellations between positive and negative feedbacks result, causing overall climate sensitivity to be less sensitive to uncertainties in poorly understood cloud physics. In particular, the positive low cloud optical thickness correlations with temperature observed in satellite data argue for a minimum climate sensitivity higher than the 1.5°C that is usually assumed.

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Anthony D. Del Genio
and
Audrey B. Wolf

Abstract

Satellite observations of low-level clouds have challenged the idea that increasing liquid water content with temperature combined with constant physical thickness will lead to a negative cloud optics feedback in a decadal climate change. The reasons for the satellite results are explored using 4 yr of surface remote sensing data from the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Program Cloud and Radiation Testbed site in the southern Great Plains of the United States. It is found that low-cloud liquid water path is approximately invariant with temperature in winter but decreases strongly with temperature in summer, consistent with satellite inferences at this latitude. This behavior occurs because liquid water content shows no detectable temperature dependence while cloud physical thickness decreases with warming. Thinning of clouds with warming is observed on seasonal, synoptic, and diurnal timescales; it is most obvious in the warm sectors of baroclinic waves. Although cloud top is observed to slightly descend with warming, the primary cause of thinning is the ascent of cloud base due to the reduction in surface relative humidity and the concomitant increase in the lifting condensation level of surface air. Low-cloud liquid water path is not observed to be a continuous function of temperature. Rather, the behavior observed is best explained as a transition in the frequency of occurrence of different boundary layer types. At cold temperatures, a mixture of stratified and convective boundary layers is observed, leading to a broad distribution of liquid water path values, while at warm temperatures, only convective boundary layers with small liquid water paths, some of them decoupled, are observed. Our results, combined with the earlier satellite inferences, suggest a reexamination of the commonly quoted 1.5°C lower limit for the equilibrium global climate sensitivity to a doubling of CO2, which is based on models in which liquid water increases with temperature and cloud physical thickness is constant.

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Mao-Sung Yao
and
Anthony D. Del Genio

Abstract

The influence of the sea surface temperature distribution on cloud feedbacks is studied by making two sets of doubled CO2 experiments with the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) GCM at 4° latitude × 5° longitude resolution. One set uses Q fluxes obtained by prescribing observed sea surface temperatures (MODELII′), and the other set uses Q fluxes obtained by prescribing the simulated sea surface temperature of a coupled ocean–atmosphere model (MODELIIO). The global and annual mean surface air temperature change (ΔT s ) obtained in MODELII′ is reduced from 4.11° to 3.02°C in MODELIIO. This reduced sensitivity, aside from reduced sea ice/snow–albedo feedback, is mainly due to cloud feedback that becomes nearly neutral in MODELIIO. Furthermore, the negative effect on climate sensitivity of anvil clouds of large optical thickness identified by Yao and Del Genio changes its sign in MODELIIO primarily due to sharply reduced increases of cloud water in the tropical upper troposphere. Colder tropical sea surface temperature in MODELIIO results in weaker deep convective activity and a more humid lower atmosphere in the warmer climate relative to MODELII′, which then removes the negative feedback of anvil clouds and sharply reduces the positive feedback of low clouds. However, an overall positive cloud optical thickness feedback is still maintained in MODELIIO.

It is suggested that the atmospheric climate sensitivity, partially due to changes in cloud feedbacks, may be significantly different for climate changes associated with different patterns of sea surface temperature change, as for example in warm versus cold paleoclimate epochs. Likewise, the climate sensitivity in coupled atmosphere–ocean models is also likely to be significantly different from the results obtained in Q-flux models due to the different simulations of sea surface temperature patterns in each type of model.

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Michael P. Jensen
and
Anthony D. Del Genio

Abstract

The radiative and microphysical characteristics of 17 precipitating systems observed by the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite over Manus, Papua New Guinea, and Nauru Island are modeled. These cases represent both deep and midlevel convection. Reflectivity data from the TRMM precipitation radar and Geostationary Meteorological Satellite infrared radiometer measurements are used to parameterize the three-dimensional cloud microphysics of each precipitating cloud system. These parameterized cloud properties are used as input for a two-stream radiative transfer model. Comparisons with measurements of broadband radiative fluxes at the top of atmosphere and the surface show agreement to within 20%. In cases in which the convective available potential energy (CAPE) is large, deep convective clouds with extended anvil decks form, containing layers of ice crystals that are too small to be detected by the TRMM radar but have a large optical thickness. This results in maximum shortwave heating and longwave cooling near cloud top at heights of 12–14 km. When CAPE is small, convective clouds extend only to midlevels (4–7 km), and there are no cloud layers below the detectability limit of the TRMM radar. Radiative heating and cooling in these cases are maximum near the freezing level. A sensitivity analysis suggests that the small ice crystals near the cloud top and larger precipitation-sized particles play equally significant roles in producing the high albedos of tropical anvil clouds. A comparison of the radiative heating profiles calculated in this study with latent heating profiles from previous studies shows that for cases of mature deep convection near local solar noon, the maximum radiative heating is 10%–30% of the magnitude of the maximum latent heating.

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Surabi Menon
,
Anthony D. Del Genio
,
Dorothy Koch
, and
George Tselioudis

Abstract

In this paper the coupling of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) general circulation model (GCM) to an online sulfur chemistry model and source models for organic matter and sea salt that is used to estimate the aerosol indirect effect is described. The cloud droplet number concentration is diagnosed empirically from field experiment datasets over land and ocean that observe droplet number and all three aerosol types simultaneously; corrections are made for implied variations in cloud turbulence levels. The resulting cloud droplet number is used to calculate variations in droplet effective radius, which in turn allows one to predict aerosol effects on cloud optical thickness and microphysical process rates. The aerosol indirect effect is calculated by differencing the top-of-the-atmosphere net cloud radiative forcing for simulations with present-day versus preindustrial emissions. Both the first and second indirect effects are explored. The sensitivity of the results presented here to cloud parameterization assumptions that control the vertical distribution of cloud occurrence, the autoconversion rate, and the aerosol scavenging rate, each of which feeds back significantly on the model aerosol burden, are tested. The global mean aerosol indirect effect for all three aerosol types ranges from −1.55 to −4.36 W m−2 in the simulations. The results are quite sensitive to the preindustrial background aerosol burden, with low preindustrial burdens giving strong indirect effects, and to a lesser extent to the anthropogenic aerosol burden, with large burdens giving somewhat larger indirect effects. Because of this dependence on the background aerosol, model diagnostics such as albedo-particle size correlations and column cloud susceptibility, for which satellite validation products are available, are not good predictors of the resulting indirect effect.

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William B. Rossow
,
Anthony D. Del Genio
, and
Timothy Eichler

Abstract

Analysis of ultraviolet image sequences, obtained from the Pioneer Venus Orbiter Cloud Photopolarimeter and covering five 80-day periods from 1979–1985, provides the first climatological description of the cloud top circulation on Venus. The average zonal winds can be characterized as a 5-day retrograde rotation of the whole cloud-level atmosphere with weak “jets” at middle to high latitudes. Both the midlatitude and equatorial zonal winds vary by about 5–8 m s−1 over time spans of 1–6 years. The average meridional circulation is poleward in both hemispheres up to at least 60° latitude, consistent with the presence of a thermally direct Hadley circulation associated with the clouds. The strength of the Hadley circulation also varies with time. Four wave modes are clearly identified: a diurnal solar tide, a semi-diurnal solar tide, a “4-day equatorial” wave, and a “5-day midlatitude” wave. The semidiurnal tide appears to have an amplitude of about 5 m s−1 and to be approximately constant with time; the diurnal tide varies in amplitude from about 10 m s−1 to less than 5 m s−1. Both tides have phases such that maximum zonal windspeeds occur near the evening terminator. The “4-day” wave is wavenumber 1 and has an amplitude of about 5 m s−1 that peaks at the equator and varies with time; in 1982 no wave with this period was apparent in the data. This wave mode is identified as a Kelvin mode by Del Genio and Rossow. The “5-day” wave is wavenumber 1 and has an amplitude of about 5 m s−1 that peaks at midlatitudes and varies in time: in 1982 no wave with this period was apparent. This wave mode is identified as an internal Rossby-Haurwitz mode.

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Anthony D. Del Genio
,
William Kovari
,
Mao-Sung Yao
, and
Jeffrey Jonas

Abstract

Precipitation processes in convective storms are potentially a major regulator of cloud feedback. An unresolved issue is how the partitioning of convective condensate between precipitation-size particles that fall out of updrafts and smaller particles that are detrained to form anvil clouds will change as the climate warms. Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) observations of tropical oceanic convective storms indicate higher precipitation efficiency at warmer sea surface temperature (SST) but also suggest that cumulus anvil sizes, albedos, and ice water paths become insensitive to warming at high temperatures. International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP) data show that instantaneous cirrus and deep convective cloud fractions are positively correlated and increase with SST except at the highest temperatures, but are sensitive to variations in large-scale vertical velocity. A simple conceptual model based on a Marshall–Palmer drop size distribution, empirical terminal velocity–particle size relationships, and assumed cumulus updraft speeds reproduces the observed tendency for detrained condensate to approach a limiting value at high SST. These results suggest that the climatic behavior of observed tropical convective clouds is intermediate between the extremes required to support the thermostat and adaptive iris hypotheses.

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Catherine M. Naud
,
Anthony D. Del Genio
, and
Mike Bauer

Abstract

The conditions under which supercooled liquid water gradually gives way to ice in the mixed-phase regions of clouds are still poorly understood and may be an important source of cloud feedback uncertainty in general circulation model projections of long-term climate change. Two winters of cloud phase discrimination, cloud-top temperature, sea surface temperature, and precipitation from several satellite datasets (the NASA Terra and Aqua Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, and the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission) for the North Atlantic and Pacific Ocean basins are analyzed to better understand these processes. Reanalysis surface pressures and vertical velocities are used in combination with a synoptic storm-tracking algorithm to define storm tracks, create composite storm dynamical and cloud patterns, and examine changes in storm characteristics over their life cycles. Characteristically different storm cloud patterns exist in the Atlantic and Pacific and on the west and east sides of each ocean basin. This appears to be related to the different spatial patterns of sea surface temperature in the two ocean basins. Glaciation occurs at very warm temperatures in the high, thick, heavily precipitating clouds typical of frontal ascent regions, except where vertical velocities are strongest, similar to previous field experiments. Outside frontal regions, however, where clouds are shallower, supercooled water exists at lower cloud-top temperatures. This analysis is the first large-scale assessment of cloud phase and its relation to dynamics on climatologically representative time scales. It provides a potentially powerful benchmark for the design and evaluation of mixed-phase process parameterizations in general circulation models and suggests that assumptions made in some existing models may negatively bias their cloud feedback estimates.

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