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Multi-annual ocean-atmosphere adjustments to radiative forcing

Rugenstein, M. A. A., Gregory, J. M., Schaller, N., Sedláček, J. and Knutti, R. (2016) Multi-annual ocean-atmosphere adjustments to radiative forcing. Journal of Climate, 29 (15). pp. 5643-5659. ISSN 1520-0442

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1175/JCLI-D-16-0312.1

Abstract/Summary

In radiative forcing and climate feedback frameworks, the initial stratospheric and tropospheric adjustments to a forcing agent can be treated as part of the forcing and not as a feedback, as long as the average global surface temperature response is negligible. Here, a very large initial condition ensemble of the Community Earth System Model is used to analyze how the ocean shapes the fast response to radiative forcing. It is shown that not only the stratosphere and troposphere but also the ocean adjusts. This oceanic adjustment includes meridional ocean heat transport convergence anomalies, which are locally as large as the surface heat flux anomalies, and an increase of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation. These oceanic adjustments set the lower boundary condition for the atmospheric response of the first few years, in particular, the shortwave cloud radiative effect. This cloud adjustment causes a nonlinear relationship between global energy imbalance and temperature. It proceeds with a characteristic time scale of a few years in response to the forcing rather than scaling nonlinearly with global mean temperature anomaly. It is proposed that even very short time scales are treated as a fully coupled problem and encourage other modeling groups to investigate whether our description also suits their models’ behavior. A definition of the forcing term (“virtual forcing”) including oceanic adjustment processes is introduced and serves as an interpretive idea for longer time scales.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > NCAS
ID Code:65558
Publisher:American Meteorological Society

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