AbstractLow-level cloud feedbacks vary in magnitude, but are positive in most climate models, due to reductions in low-level cloud fraction. This study explores the impact of surface evaporation on low-level cloud fraction feedback by performing climate change experiments with the aquaplanet configuration of the HadGEM2-A climate model, forcing surface evaporation to increase at different rates in two ways. Forcing the evaporation diagnosed in the surface scheme to increase at 7%/K with warming (more than doubling the hydrological sensitivity) results in an increase in global mean low-level cloud fraction and a negative global cloud feedback, reversing the signs of these responses compared to the standard experiments. The Estimated Inversion Strength (EIS) increases more rapidly in these surface evaporation forced experiments, which is attributed to additional latent heat release and enhanced warming of the free troposphere. Stimulating a 7%/K increase in surface evaporation via enhanced atmospheric radiative cooling however results in a weaker EIS increase compared to the standard experiments and a slightly stronger lowlevel cloud reduction. The low-level cloud fraction response is predicted better by EIS than surface evaporation across all experiments. This suggests that surface-forced increases in evaporation increase low-level cloud fraction mainly by increasing EIS. Additionally our results show that increases in surface evaporation can have a very substantial impact on the rate of increase in radiative cooling with warming, by modifying the temperature and humidity structure of the atmosphere. This has implications for understanding the factors controlling hydrological sensitivity.
Journal of Climate – American Meteorological Society
Published: Dec 19, 2017
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