Interactions between hydrological sensitivity, radiative cooling, stability, and low-level cloud amount feedback
Journal of Climate
American Meteorological Society
© 2018 American Meteorological Society.
Reason for embargo
Under embargo until 9 February 2019 in compliance with publisher policy.
Low-level cloud feedbacks vary in magnitude but are positive in most climate models, due to reductions in low-level cloud fraction. This study explores the impact of surface evaporation on low-level cloud fraction feedback by performing climate change experiments with the aquaplanet configuration of the HadGEM2-A climate model, forcing surface evaporation to increase at different rates in two ways. Forcing the evaporation diagnosed in the surface scheme to increase at 7% K -1 with warming (more than doubling the hydrological sensitivity) results in an increase in global mean low-level cloud fraction and a negative global cloud feedback, reversing the signs of these responses compared to the standard experiments. The estimated inversion strength (EIS) increases more rapidly in these surface evaporation forced experiments, which is attributed to additional latent heat release and enhanced warming of the free troposphere. Stimulating a 7% K -1 increase in surface evaporation via enhanced atmospheric radiative cooling, however, results in a weaker EIS increase compared to the standard experiments and a slightly stronger low-level cloud reduction. The low-level cloud fraction response is predicted better by EIS than surface evaporation across all experiments. This suggests that surface-forced increases in evaporation increase low-level cloud fraction mainly by increasing EIS. Additionally, the results herein show that increases in surface evaporation can have a very substantial impact on the rate of increase in radiative cooling with warming, by modifying the temperature and humidity structure of the atmosphere. This has implications for understanding the factors controlling hydrological sensitivity.
Mark Webb was supported by the Joint UK BEIS/Defra Met Office Hadley Centre Climate Programme 726 (GA01101).
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from American Meteorological Society via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 31, pp. 1833 - 1850