Four perspectives on climate feedbacks



[1] The spatial pattern of climate feedbacks depends on how the feedbacks are defined. We employ an idealized aquaplanet simulation with radiative kernels diagnosed for the precise model setup and characterize the meridional structure of feedbacks under four different definitions: local feedbacks, global feedbacks, nondimensional feedback factors, and relative humidity feedbacks. First, the spatial pattern of the reference response (i.e., the Planck feedback) is found to vary with definition, largely as a consequence of polar-amplified warming, which affects other high-latitude feedbacks as well. Second, locally defined feedbacks allow for decomposition of the surface temperature response as a function of feedbacks, forcing, and heat transport. Third, different insights into the dynamical and thermodynamical underpinnings of the subtropical moisture response are gained by comparing different versions of humidity feedbacks. Thus, alternative approaches to the conventional, global definition of feedbacks offer several advantages for understanding patterns of warming and, ultimately, regional climate predictability.