Are changes in global precipitation constrained by the tropospheric energy budget?
Lambert, F. Hugo
Allen, Myles R.
Journal of Climate
American Meteorological Society
A tropospheric energy budget argument is used to analyze twentieth-century precipitation changes. It is found that global and ocean-mean general circulation model (GCM) precipitation changes can be understood as being due to the competing direct and surface-temperature-dependent effects of external climate forcings. In agreement with previous work, precipitation is found to respond more strongly to anthropogenic and volcanic sulfate aerosol and solar forcing than to greenhouse gas and black carbon aerosol forcing per unit temperature. This is due to the significant direct effects of greenhouse gas and black carbon forcing. Given that the relative importance of different forcings may change in the twenty-first century, the ratio of global precipitation change to global temperature change may be quite different. Differences in GCM twentieth- and twenty-first-century values are tractable via the energy budget framework in some, but not all, models. Changes in land-mean precipitation, on the other hand, cannot be understood at all with the method used here, even if land–ocean heat transfer is considered. In conclusion, the tropospheric energy budget is a useful concept for understanding the precipitation response to different forcings but it does not fully explain precipitation changes even in the global mean.
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Vol. 22 (3), pp. 499 - 517