Is the climate sensitivity to ozone perturbations enhanced by stratospheric water vapor feedback?



The climate response to a set of idealized ozone perturbations is investigated by integrations with a coupled atmosphere-ocean model. Although all perturbations, including a homogeneous CO2 increase, induce the same stratosphere adjusted, tropopause radiative forcing, the climate response is quite variable within the set of experiments. Except for an upper tropospheric ozone increase, our model is more sensitive to ozone perturbations than to an equivalent CO2 perturbation. This applies in particular to a lower stratospheric ozone increase. The accompanying changes in the stratospheric water vapor (SWV) distribution are found to impose additional forcings on climate that may well exceed the forcings due to the original perturbations. Without SWV feedback on radiation the climate sensitivity to a lower stratospheric ozone increase draws remarkably near the respective value for equivalent CO2. This emphasizes the crucial role SWV may have in the forcing-response relationship.