Robustness of Dynamical Feedbacks from Radiative Forcing: 2% Solar versus 2xCO2...

Cai, M., and K. Tung (2012), Robustness of Dynamical Feedbacks from Radiative Forcing: 2% Solar versus 2xCO2 Experiments in an Idealized GCM, J. Atmos. Sci., 69, 2256-2271, doi:10.1175/JAS-D-11-0117.1.

Despite the differences in the spatial patterns of the external forcing associated with a doubling CO2 and with a 2% solar variability, the final responses in the troposphere and at the surface in a three-dimensional general circulation model appear remarkably similar. Various feedback processes are diagnosed and compared using the climate feedback–response analysis method (CFRAM) to understand the mechanisms responsible.

At the surface, solar radiative forcing is stronger in the tropics than at the high latitudes, whereas greenhouse radiative forcing is stronger at high latitudes compared with the tropics. Also solar forcing is positive everywhere in the troposphere and greenhouse radiative forcing is positive mainly in the lower troposphere. The water vapor feedback strengthens the upward-decreasing radiative heating profile in the tropics and the poleward-decreasing radiative heating profile in the lower troposphere. The ‘‘evaporative’’ and convective feedbacks play an important role only in the tropics where they act to reduce the warming at the surface and lower troposphere in favor of upper-troposphere warming. Both water vapor feedback and enhancement of convection in the tropics further strengthen the initial poleward-decreasing profile of energy flux convergence perturbations throughout the troposphere. As a result, the large-scale dynamical poleward energy transport, which acts on the negative temperature gradient, is enhanced in both cases, contributing to a polar amplification of warming aloft and a warming reduction in the tropics. The dynamical amplification of polar atmospheric warming also contributes additional warming to the surface below via downward thermal radiation.

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Climate Variability and Change Program