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A. Gettelman
,
J. E. Kay
, and
J. T. Fasullo

Abstract

An ensemble of simulations from different versions of the Community Atmosphere Model in the Community Earth System Model (CESM) is used to investigate the processes responsible for the intermodel spread in climate sensitivity. In the CESM simulations, the climate sensitivity spread is primarily explained by shortwave cloud feedbacks on the equatorward flank of the midlatitude storm tracks. Shortwave cloud feedbacks have been found to explain climate sensitivity spread in previous studies, but the location of feedback differences was in the subtropics rather than in the storm tracks as identified in CESM. The cloud-feedback relationships are slightly stronger in the winter hemisphere. The spread in climate sensitivity in this study is related both to the cloud-base state and to the cloud feedbacks. Simulated climate sensitivity is correlated with cloud-fraction changes on the equatorward side of the storm tracks, cloud condensate in the storm tracks, and cloud microphysical state on the poleward side of the storm tracks. Changes in the extent and water content of stratiform clouds (that make up cloud feedback) are regulated by the base-state vertical velocity, humidity, and deep convective mass fluxes. Within the storm tracks, the cloud-base state affects the cloud response to CO2-induced temperature changes and alters the cloud feedbacks, contributing to climate sensitivity spread within the CESM ensemble.

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A. Gettelman
,
J. E. Kay
, and
K. M. Shell

Abstract

The major evolution of the National Center for Atmospheric Research Community Atmosphere Model (CAM) is used to diagnose climate feedbacks, understand how climate feedbacks change with different physical parameterizations, and identify the processes and regions that determine climate sensitivity. In the evolution of CAM from version 4 to version 5, the water vapor, temperature, surface albedo, and lapse rate feedbacks are remarkably stable across changes to the physical parameterization suite. However, the climate sensitivity increases from 3.2 K in CAM4 to 4.0 K in CAM5. The difference is mostly due to (i) more positive cloud feedbacks and (ii) higher CO2 radiative forcing in CAM5. The intermodel differences in cloud feedbacks are largest in the tropical trade cumulus regime and in the midlatitude storm tracks. The subtropical stratocumulus regions do not contribute strongly to climate feedbacks owing to their small area coverage. A “modified Cess” configuration for atmosphere-only model experiments is shown to reproduce slab ocean model results. Several parameterizations contribute to changes in tropical cloud feedbacks between CAM4 and CAM5, but the new shallow convection scheme causes the largest midlatitude feedback differences and the largest change in climate sensitivity. Simulations with greater cloud forcing in the mean state have lower climate sensitivity. This work provides a methodology for further analysis of climate sensitivity across models and a framework for targeted comparisons with observations that can help constrain climate sensitivity to radiative forcing.

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J. E. Kay
,
B. R. Hillman
,
S. A. Klein
,
Y. Zhang
,
B. Medeiros
,
R. Pincus
,
A. Gettelman
,
B. Eaton
,
J. Boyle
,
R. Marchand
, and
T. P. Ackerman

Abstract

Satellite observations and their corresponding instrument simulators are used to document global cloud biases in the Community Atmosphere Model (CAM) versions 4 and 5. The model–observation comparisons show that, despite having nearly identical cloud radiative forcing, CAM5 has a much more realistic representation of cloud properties than CAM4. In particular, CAM5 exhibits substantial improvement in three long-standing climate model cloud biases: 1) the underestimation of total cloud, 2) the overestimation of optically thick cloud, and 3) the underestimation of midlevel cloud. While the increased total cloud and decreased optically thick cloud in CAM5 result from improved physical process representation, the increased midlevel cloud in CAM5 results from the addition of radiatively active snow. Despite these improvements, both CAM versions have cloud deficiencies. Of particular concern, both models exhibit large but differing biases in the subtropical marine boundary layer cloud regimes that are known to explain intermodel differences in cloud feedbacks and climate sensitivity. More generally, this study demonstrates that simulator-facilitated evaluation of cloud properties, such as amount by vertical level and optical depth, can robustly expose large and at times radiatively compensating climate model cloud biases.

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Gerald A. Meehl
,
Warren M. Washington
,
Julie M. Arblaster
,
Aixue Hu
,
Haiyan Teng
,
Jennifer E. Kay
,
Andrew Gettelman
,
David M. Lawrence
,
Benjamin M. Sanderson
, and
Warren G. Strand

Abstract

Future climate change projections for phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) are presented for the Community Earth System Model version 1 that includes the Community Atmospheric Model version 5 [CESM1(CAM5)]. These results are compared to the Community Climate System Model, version 4 (CCSM4) and include simulations using the representative concentration pathway (RCP) mitigation scenarios, and extensions for those scenarios beyond 2100 to 2300. Equilibrium climate sensitivity of CESM1(CAM5) is 4.10°C, which is higher than the CCSM4 value of 3.20°C. The transient climate response is 2.33°C, compared to the CCSM4 value of 1.73°C. Thus, even though CESM1(CAM5) includes both the direct and indirect effects of aerosols (CCSM4 had only the direct effect), the overall climate system response including forcing and feedbacks is greater in CESM1(CAM5) compared to CCSM4. The Atlantic Ocean meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) in CESM1(CAM5) weakens considerably in the twenty-first century in all the RCP scenarios, and recovers more slowly in the lower forcing scenarios. The total aerosol optical depth (AOD) changes from ~0.12 in 2006 to ~0.10 in 2100, compared to a preindustrial 1850 value of 0.08, so there is less negative forcing (a net positive forcing) from that source during the twenty-first century. Consequently, the change from 2006 to 2100 in aerosol direct forcing in CESM1(CAM5) contributes to greater twenty-first century warming relative to CCSM4. There is greater Arctic warming and sea ice loss in CESM1(CAM5), with an ice-free summer Arctic occurring by about 2060 in RCP8.5 (2040s in September) as opposed to about 2100 in CCSM4 (2060s in September).

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