An Analytical Model for Spatially Varying Clear-Sky CO2 Forcing

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  • 1 NOAA/Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton, New Jersey
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Abstract

Clear-sky CO2 forcing is known to vary significantly over the globe, but the state dependence which controls this is not well understood. Here we extend the formalism of Wilson and Gea-Banacloche (2012) to obtain a quantitatively accurate analytical model for spatially-varying instantaneous CO2 forcing, which depends only on surface temperature Ts, stratospheric temperature, and column relative humidity RH. This model shows that CO2 forcing can be considered a swap of surface emission for stratospheric emission, and thus depends primarily on surface-stratosphere temperature contrast. The strong meridional gradient in CO2 forcing is thus largely due to the strong meridional gradient in Ts. In the tropics and mid-latitudes, however, the presence of H2O modulates the forcing by replacing surface emission with RH-dependent atmospheric emission. This substantially reduces the forcing in the tropics, introduces forcing variations due to spatially-varying RH, and sets an upper limit (with respect to Ts variations) on CO2 forcing which is reached in the present-day tropics.

In addition, we extend our analytical model to the instantaneous tropopause forcing, and find that this forcing depends on Ts only, with no dependence on stratospheric temperature. We also analyze the ‘τ = 1’ approximation for the emission level, and derive an exact formula for the emission level which yields values closer to τ = 1/2 than to τ = 1.

Harvard University Center for the Environment, Cambridge MA.

NOAA/GFDL, Princeton NJ.

Geosciences Department, Princeton University, Princeton NJ 08544.

Corresponding author address: Nadir Jeevanjee, NOAA/Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton NJ 08540. E-mail: nadir.jeevanjee@noaa.gov

Abstract

Clear-sky CO2 forcing is known to vary significantly over the globe, but the state dependence which controls this is not well understood. Here we extend the formalism of Wilson and Gea-Banacloche (2012) to obtain a quantitatively accurate analytical model for spatially-varying instantaneous CO2 forcing, which depends only on surface temperature Ts, stratospheric temperature, and column relative humidity RH. This model shows that CO2 forcing can be considered a swap of surface emission for stratospheric emission, and thus depends primarily on surface-stratosphere temperature contrast. The strong meridional gradient in CO2 forcing is thus largely due to the strong meridional gradient in Ts. In the tropics and mid-latitudes, however, the presence of H2O modulates the forcing by replacing surface emission with RH-dependent atmospheric emission. This substantially reduces the forcing in the tropics, introduces forcing variations due to spatially-varying RH, and sets an upper limit (with respect to Ts variations) on CO2 forcing which is reached in the present-day tropics.

In addition, we extend our analytical model to the instantaneous tropopause forcing, and find that this forcing depends on Ts only, with no dependence on stratospheric temperature. We also analyze the ‘τ = 1’ approximation for the emission level, and derive an exact formula for the emission level which yields values closer to τ = 1/2 than to τ = 1.

Harvard University Center for the Environment, Cambridge MA.

NOAA/GFDL, Princeton NJ.

Geosciences Department, Princeton University, Princeton NJ 08544.

Corresponding author address: Nadir Jeevanjee, NOAA/Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton NJ 08540. E-mail: nadir.jeevanjee@noaa.gov
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