Geophysical Research Letters

Varying trends in surface energy fluxes and associated climate between 1960 and 2002 based on transient climate simulations

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Abstract

[1] The observed reduction in land surface radiation over the last several decades (1960–1990), the so-called “dimming effect,” and the more recent evidence of a reversal in “dimming” over some locations beyond 1990 suggest several consequences on climate, notably on the hydrological cycle. Such a reduction in radiation should imply reduced surface temperature (Ts) and precipitation, which have not occurred. We have investigated the possible causes for the above climate features using a climate model coupled to a dynamic ocean model under natural and anthropogenic conditions. To isolate the aerosol influence on surface radiation trends, we have analyzed transient climate simulations from 1960 to 2002 with and without anthropogenic aerosols. Based on a linear trend with aerosol effects included, the global mean change in the surface solar radiation absorbed over land is −0.021 ± 0.0033 Wm−2yr−1. Although the overall trend is negative, we do note a reversal in dimming after 1990, consistent with observations. Without aerosol effects, the surface solar radiation absorbed over land increases throughout 1960 to 2002, mainly due to the decrease in cloud cover associated with increased greenhouse warming. In spite of a simulated increase in Ts of 0.012 K yr−1 for 1960 to 2002, the global mean latent heat flux and associated intensity of the hydrological cycle decrease overall, however with increases over some land locations due mainly to moisture advection. Simulated changes correspond more closely to observed changes when accounting for aerosol effects on climate.

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