The highs and lows of cloud radiative feedback: Comparing observational data and CMIP5 models

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Andrea Jenney, University of Miami, Miami, FL, United States and David A Randall, Colorado State University, Atmospheric Science, Fort Collins, CO, United States
Clouds play a complex role in the climate system, and remain one of the more difficult aspects of the future climate to predict. Over subtropical eastern ocean basins, particularly next to California, Peru, and Southwest Africa, low marine stratocumulus clouds (MSC) help to reduce the amount of solar radiation that reaches the surface by reflecting incident sunlight. The climate feedback associated with these clouds is thought to be positive. This project looks at CMIP5 models and compares them to observational data from CERES and ERA-Interim to try and find observational evidence and model agreement for low, marine stratocumulus cloud feedback. Although current evidence suggests that the low cloud feedback is positive (IPCC, 2014), an analysis of the simulated relationship between July lower tropospheric stability (LTS) and shortwave cloud forcing in MSC regions suggests that this feedback is not due to changes in LTS. 

IPCC, 2013: Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Stocker, T.F., D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex and P.M. Midgley (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, 1535 pp.