Mechanism of tropical low-cloud response to surface warming using weather and climate simulations


  • The copyright line for this article was changed on 13 APR 2015 after original online publication.


[1] To understand mechanisms of shortwave cloud-radiative feedback to global warming in a general circulation model (GCM), we analyzed the response of tropical clouds to uniform increase of sea surface temperature in an atmospheric GCM with two different experimental designs: a single Atmospheric Model Intercomparison Project (AMIP) run for 30 years and a series of 10 day weather hindcasts following the Transpose AMIP II (TAMIP). Given the fast time scale of cloud processes, the hindcast ensemble can capture initial transient responses toward equilibrium obtained in the AMIP experiment, which shows a reduction of low clouds over tropical subsidence regions. The reduction of clouds occurs in the first 10 days in TAMIP when the marine boundary layer (MBL) is destabilized because of contrast between fast and slow warming in the MBL and aloft. Enhanced evaporation from the sea surface that should moisten the MBL through turbulent mixing is suppressed by a reduced surface wind speed associated with a slowdown of the Walker circulation. The sign of the low-cloud change over the subsidence regime is thus determined roughly by competition between convective drying and turbulent moistening of the MBL.