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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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Alexandra K. Jonko, Karen M. Shell, Benjamin M. Sanderson, and Gokhan Danabasoglu

Abstract

Are equilibrium climate sensitivity and the associated radiative feedbacks a constant property of the climate system, or do they change with forcing magnitude and base climate? Using the radiative kernel technique, feedbacks and climate sensitivity are evaluated in a fully coupled general circulation model (GCM) for three successive doublings of carbon dioxide starting from present-day concentrations. Climate sensitivity increases by 23% between the first and third CO2 doublings. Increases in the positive water vapor and cloud feedbacks are partially balanced by a decrease in the positive surface albedo feedback and an increase in the negative lapse rate feedback. Feedbacks can be decomposed into a radiative flux change and a climate variable response to temperature change. The changes in water vapor and Planck feedbacks are due largely to changes in the radiative response with climate state. Higher concentrations of greenhouse gases and higher temperatures lead to more absorption and emission of longwave radiation. Changes in cloud feedbacks are dominated by the climate response to temperature change, while the lapse rate and albedo feedbacks combine elements of both. Simulations with a slab ocean model (SOM) version of the GCM are used to verify whether an SOM-GCM accurately reproduces the behavior of the fully coupled model. Although feedbacks differ in magnitude between model configurations (with differences as large as those between CO2 doublings for some feedbacks), changes in feedbacks between CO2 doublings are consistent in sign and magnitude in the SOM-GCM and the fully coupled model.

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Alexandra K. Jonko, Karen M. Shell, Benjamin M. Sanderson, and Gokhan Danabasoglu

Abstract

Climate feedbacks vary strongly among climate models and continue to represent a major source of uncertainty in estimates of the response of climate to anthropogenic forcings. One method to evaluate feedbacks in global climate models is the radiative kernel technique, which is well suited for model intercomparison studies because of its computational efficiency. However, the usefulness of this technique is predicated on the assumption of linearity between top-of-atmosphere (TOA) radiative fluxes and feedback variables, limiting its application to simulations of small climate perturbations, where nonlinearities can be neglected. This paper presents an extension of the utility of this linear technique to large forcings, using global climate model simulations forced with CO2 concentrations ranging from 2 to 8 times present-day values. Radiative kernels depend on the model’s radiative transfer algorithm and climate base state. For large warming, kernels based on the present-day climate significantly underestimate longwave TOA flux changes and somewhat overestimate shortwave TOA flux changes. These biases translate to inaccurate feedback estimates. It is shown that a combination of present-day kernels and kernels computed using a large forcing climate base state leads to significant improvement in the approximation of TOA flux changes and increased reliability of feedback estimates. While using present-day kernels results in a climate sensitivity that remains constant, using the new kernels shows that sensitivity increases significantly with each successive doubling of CO2 concentrations.

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C. M. Bitz, K. M. Shell, P. R. Gent, D. A. Bailey, G. Danabasoglu, K. C. Armour, M. M. Holland, and J. T. Kiehl

Abstract

Equilibrium climate sensitivity of the Community Climate System Model, version 4 (CCSM4) is 3.20°C for 1° horizontal resolution in each component. This is about a half degree Celsius higher than in the previous version (CCSM3). The transient climate sensitivity of CCSM4 at 1° resolution is 1.72°C, which is about 0.2°C higher than in CCSM3. These higher climate sensitivities in CCSM4 cannot be explained by the change to a preindustrial baseline climate. This study uses the radiative kernel technique to show that, from CCSM3 to CCSM4, the global mean lapse-rate feedback declines in magnitude and the shortwave cloud feedback increases. These two warming effects are partially canceled by cooling because of slight decreases in the global mean water vapor feedback and longwave cloud feedback from CCSM3 to CCSM4.

A new formulation of the mixed layer, slab-ocean model in CCSM4 attempts to reproduce the SST and sea ice climatology from an integration with a full-depth ocean, and it is integrated with a dynamic sea ice model. These new features allow an isolation of the influence of ocean dynamical changes on the climate response when comparing integrations with the slab ocean and full-depth ocean. The transient climate response of the full-depth ocean version is 0.54 of the equilibrium climate sensitivity when estimated with the new slab-ocean model version for both CCSM3 and CCSM4. The authors argue the ratio is the same in both versions because they have about the same zonal mean pattern of change in ocean surface heat flux, which broadly resembles the zonal mean pattern of net feedback strength.

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