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Peter L. Langen, Rune Grand Graversen, and Thorsten Mauritsen

Abstract

When climate is forced by a doubling of CO2, a number of feedback processes are induced, such as changes of water vapor, clouds, and surface albedo. Here the CO2 forcing and concomitant feedbacks are studied individually using a general circulation model coupled to an aquaplanet mixed layer ocean. A technique for fixing the radiative effects of moisture and clouds by reusing these variables from 1 × CO2 and 2 × CO2 equilibrium climates in the model’s radiation code allows for a detailed decomposition of forcings, feedbacks, and responses. The cloud feedback in this model is found to have a weak global average effect and surface albedo feedbacks have been eliminated. As in previous studies, the water vapor feedback is found to approximately double climate sensitivity, but while its radiative effect is strongly amplified at low latitudes, the resulting response displays about the same degree of polar amplification as the full all-feedbacks experiment. In fact, atmospheric energy transports are found to change in a way that yields the same meridional pattern of response as when the water vapor feedback is turned off. The authors conclude that while the water vapor feedback does not in itself lead to polar amplification by increasing the ratio of high- to low-latitude warming, it does double climate sensitivity both at low and high latitudes. A polar amplification induced by other feedbacks in the system, such as the Planck and lapse rate feedbacks here, is thus strengthened in the sense of increasing the difference in high- and low-latitude warming.

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Marie-Luise Kapsch, Rune Grand Graversen, Michael Tjernström, and Richard Bintanja

Abstract

The Arctic summer sea ice has diminished fast in recent decades. A strong year-to-year variability on top of this trend indicates that sea ice is sensitive to short-term climate fluctuations. Previous studies show that anomalous atmospheric conditions over the Arctic during spring and summer affect ice melt and the September sea ice extent (SIE). These conditions are characterized by clouds, humidity, and heat anomalies that all affect downwelling shortwave (SWD) and longwave (LWD) radiation to the surface. In general, positive LWD anomalies are associated with cloudy and humid conditions, whereas positive anomalies of SWD appear under clear-sky conditions. Here the effect of realistic anomalies of LWD and SWD on summer sea ice is investigated by performing experiments with the Community Earth System Model. The SWD and LWD anomalies are studied separately and in combination for different seasons. It is found that positive LWD anomalies in spring and early summer have significant impact on the September SIE, whereas winter anomalies show only little effect. Positive anomalies in spring and early summer initiate an earlier melt onset, hereby triggering several feedback mechanisms that amplify melt during the succeeding months. Realistic positive SWD anomalies appear only important if they occur after the melt has started and the albedo is significantly reduced relative to winter conditions. Simulations where both positive LWD and negative SWD anomalies are implemented simultaneously, mimicking cloudy conditions, reveal that clouds during spring have a significant impact on summer sea ice while summer clouds have almost no effect.

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