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Mechanisms of the negative shortwave cloud feedback in mid to high latitudes

Ceppi, P., Hartmann, D. L. and Webb, M. J. (2016) Mechanisms of the negative shortwave cloud feedback in mid to high latitudes. Journal of Climate, 29 (1). pp. 139-157. ISSN 1520-0442

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1175/JCLI-D-15-0327.1


Increases in cloud optical depth and liquid water path (LWP) are robust features of global warming model simulations in high latitudes, yielding a negative shortwave cloud feedback, but the mechanisms are still uncertain. We assess the importance of microphysical processes for the negative optical depth feedback by perturbing temperature in the microphysics schemes of two aquaplanet models, both of which have separate prognostic equations for liquid water and ice. We find that most of the LWP increase with warming is caused by a suppression of ice microphysical processes in mixed-phase clouds, resulting in reduced conversion efficiencies of liquid water to ice and precipitation. Perturbing the temperature-dependent phase partitioning of convective condensate also yields a small LWP increase. Together, the perturbations in large-scale microphysics and convective condensate partitioning explain more than two-thirds of the LWP response relative to a reference case with increased SSTs, and capture all of the vertical structure of the liquid water response. In support of these findings, we show the existence of a very robust positive relationship between monthly-mean LWP and temperature in CMIP5 models and observations in mixed-phase cloud regions only. In models, the historical LWP sensitivity to temperature is a good predictor of the forced global warming response poleward of about 45°, although models appear to overestimate the LWP response to warming compared to observations. We conclude that in climate models, the suppression of ice-phase microphysical processes that deplete cloud liquid water is a key driver of the LWP increase with warming and of the associated negative shortwave cloud feedback.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:No Reading authors. Back catalogue items
Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:46018
Publisher:American Meteorological Society


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