Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres

Do sophisticated parameterizations of aerosol-cloud interactions in CMIP5 models improve the representation of recent observed temperature trends?


  • Annica M. L. Ekman

    1. Department of Meteorology, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
    2. The Bolin Centre of Climate Research, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
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  • This article was corrected on 3 FEB 2015. See the end of the full text for details.

Correspondence to:

A. M. L. Ekman,


Model output from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 5 (CMIP5) archive was compared with the observed latitudinal distribution of surface temperature trends between the years 1965 and 2004. By comparing model simulations that only consider changes in greenhouse gas forcing (GHG) with simulations that also consider the time evolution of anthropogenic aerosol emissions (GHGAERO), the influence of aerosol forcing on modeled surface temperature trends, and the dependence of the forcing on the model representation of aerosols and aerosol indirect effects, was evaluated. One group of models include sophisticated parameterizations of aerosol activation into cloud droplets; viz., the cloud droplet number concentration (CDNC) is a function of the modeled supersaturation as well as the aerosol concentration. In these models, the temperature trend bias was reduced in GHGAERO compared to GHG in more regions than in the other models. The ratio between high- and low-latitude warming also improved compared to observations. In a second group of models, the CDNC is diagnosed using an empirical relationship between the CDNC and the aerosol concentration. In this group, the temperature trend bias was reduced in more regions than in the model group where no aerosol indirect effects are considered. No clear difference could be found between models that include an explicit aerosol module and the ones that utilize prescribed aerosol. There was also no clear difference between models that include aerosol effects on the precipitation formation rate and the ones that do not. The results indicate that the best representation of recent observed surface temperature trends is obtained if the modeled CDNC is a function of both the aerosol concentration and the supersaturation.