CO2 forcing induces semi-direct effects with consequences for climate feedback interpretations



[1] Climate forcing and feedbacks are diagnosed from seven slab-ocean GCMs for 2 × CO2 using a regression method. Results are compared to those using conventional methodologies to derive a semi-direct forcing due to tropospheric adjustment, analogous to the semi-direct effect of absorbing aerosols. All models show a cloud semi-direct effect, indicating a rapid cloud response to CO2; cloud typically decreases, enhancing the warming. Similarly there is evidence of semi-direct effects from water-vapour, lapse-rate, ice and snow. Previous estimates of climate feedbacks are unlikely to have taken these semi-direct effects into account and so misinterpret processes as feedbacks that depend only on the forcing, but not the global surface temperature. We show that the actual cloud feedback is smaller than what previous methods suggest and that a significant part of the cloud response and the large spread between previous model estimates of cloud feedback is due to the semi-direct forcing.