Publications associated with Ice and Fluid Dynamics

Observational evidence against strongly stabilizing tropical cloud feedbacks

Geophysical Research Letters American Geophysical Union 44 (2017) 1503-1510

IN Williams, R Pierrehumbert

We present a method to attribute cloud radiative feedbacks to convective processes, using sub-cloud layer buoyancy as a diagnostic of stable and deep convective regimes. Applying this approach to tropical remote-sensing measurements over years 2000-2016 shows that an inferred negative short-term cloud feedback from deep convection was nearly offset by a positive cloud feedback from stable regimes. The net cloud feedback was within statistical uncertainty of the NCAR Community Atmosphere Model (CAM5) with historical forcings, with discrepancies in the partitioning of the cloud feedback into convective regimes. Compensation between high-cloud responses to tropics-wide warming in stable and unstable regimes resulted in smaller net changes in high-cloud fraction with warming. In addition, deep convection and associated high clouds set in at warmer temperatures in response to warming, as a consequence of nearly invariant sub-cloud buoyancy. This invariance further constrained the magnitude of cloud radiative feedbacks, and is consistent with climate model projections.

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