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Understanding land-sea warming contrast in response to increasing greenhouse gases. Part I: Transient adjustment

Dong, B. ORCID:, Gregory, J. M. ORCID: and Sutton, R. T. ORCID: (2009) Understanding land-sea warming contrast in response to increasing greenhouse gases. Part I: Transient adjustment. Journal of Climate, 22 (11). pp. 3079-3097. ISSN 1520-0442

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1175/2009JCLI2652.1


Climate model simulations consistently show that surface temperature over land increases more rapidly than over sea in response to greenhouse gas forcing. The enhanced warming over land is not simply a transient effect caused by the land–sea contrast in heat capacities, since it is also present in equilibrium conditions. This paper elucidates the transient adjustment processes over time scales of days to weeks of the surface and tropospheric climate in response to a doubling of CO2 and to changes in sea surface temperature (SST), imposed separately and together, using ensembles of experiments with an atmospheric general circulation model. These adjustment processes can be grouped into three stages: immediate response of the troposphere and surface processes (day 1), fast adjustment of surface processes (days 2–5), and adjustment of the whole troposphere (days 6–20). Some land surface warming in response to doubled CO2 (with unchanged SSTs) occurs immediately because of increased downward longwave radiation. Increased CO2 also leads to reduced plant stomatal resistance and hence restricted evaporation, which increases land surface warming in the first day. Rapid reductions in cloud amount lead in the next few days to increased downward shortwave radiation and further warming, which spreads upward from the surface, and by day 5 the surface and tropospheric response is statistically consistent with the equilibrium value. Land surface warming in response to imposed SST change (with unchanged CO2) is slower. Tropospheric warming is advected inland from the sea, and over land it occurs at all levels together rather than spreading upward from the surface. The atmospheric response to prescribed SST change in about 20 days is statistically consistent with the equilibrium value, and the warming is largest in the upper troposphere over both land and sea. The land surface warming involves reduction of cloud cover and increased downward shortwave radiation, as in the experiment with CO2 change, but in this case it is due to the restriction of moisture supply to the land (indicated by reduced soil moisture), whereas in the CO2 forcing experiment it is due to restricted evaporation despite increased moisture supply (indicated by increased soil moisture). The warming over land in response to SST change is greater than over the sea and is the dominant contribution to the land–sea warming contrast under enhanced CO2 forcing.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > NCAS
Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
Interdisciplinary centres and themes > Soil Research Centre
ID Code:4322
Uncontrolled Keywords:ocean-atmosphere model; center climate model; hydrological cycle; CO2 concentration; carbon-dioxide; sensitivity; temperatures; simulations; mechanisms; trends
Publisher:American Meteorological Society

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