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Influence of dynamics on the changes in tropical cloud radiative forcing during the 1998 El Niño

Allan, R. P. ORCID:, Slingo, A. and Ringer, M. A. (2002) Influence of dynamics on the changes in tropical cloud radiative forcing during the 1998 El Niño. Journal of Climate, 15 (14). pp. 1979-1986. ISSN 1520-0442

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1175/1520-0442(2002)015<1979:IODOTC>2.0.CO;2


Satellite measurements of the radiation budget and data from the U.S. National Centers for Environmental Prediction–National Center for Atmospheric Research reanalysis are used to investigate the links between anomalous cloud radiative forcing over the tropical west Pacific warm pool and the tropical dynamics and sea surface temperature (SST) distribution during 1998. The ratio, N, of the shortwave cloud forcing (SWCF) to longwave cloud forcing (LWCF) (N = −SWCF/LWCF) is used to infer information on cloud altitude. A higher than average N during 1998 appears to be related to two separate phenomena. First, dynamic regime-dependent changes explain high values of N (associated with low cloud altitude) for small magnitudes of SWCF and LWCF (low cloud fraction), which reflect the unusual occurrence of mean subsiding motion over the tropical west Pacific during 1998, associated with the anomalous SST distribution. Second, Tropics-wide long-term changes in the spatial-mean cloud forcing, independent of dynamic regime, explain the higher values of N during both 1998 and in 1994/95. The changes in dynamic regime and their anomalous structure in 1998 are well simulated by version HadAM3 of the Hadley Centre climate model, forced by the observed SSTs. However, the LWCF and SWCF are poorly simulated, as are the interannual changes in N. It is argued that improved representation of LWCF and SWCF and their dependence on dynamical forcing are required before the cloud feedbacks simulated by climate models can be trusted.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
No Reading authors. Back catalogue items
ID Code:19264
Publisher:American Meteorological Society

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