A climate model (Community Earth System Model with the Community Atmosphere Model version 5 (CESM-CAM5)) is used to identify processes controlling Southern Ocean (30–70°S) absorbed shortwave radiation (ASR). In response to 21st century Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 forcing, both sea ice loss (2.6 W m−2) and cloud changes (1.2 W m−2) enhance ASR, but their relative importance depends on location and season. Poleward of ~55°S, surface albedo reductions and increased cloud liquid water content (LWC) have competing effects on ASR changes. Equatorward of ~55°S, decreased LWC enhances ASR. The 21st century cloud LWC changes result from warming and near-surface stability changes but appear unrelated to a small (1°) poleward shift in the eddy-driven jet. In fact, the 21st century ASR changes are 5 times greater than ASR changes resulting from large (5°) naturally occurring jet latitude variability. More broadly, these results suggest that thermodynamics (warming and near-surface stability), not poleward jet shifts, control 21st century Southern Ocean shortwave climate feedbacks.