AbstractThis paper introduces an idealized general circulation model (GCM) in which water vapor and clouds are tracked as tracers, but are not allowed to affect circulation through either latent heat release or cloud radiative effects. The cloud scheme includes an explicit treatment of cloud microphysics and diagnoses cloud fraction from a prescribed subgrid distribution of total water. The model is capable of qualitatively capturing many large-scale features of water vapor and cloud distributions outside of the boundary layer and deep tropics. The subtropical dry zones, midlatitude storm tracks, and upper-tropospheric cirrus are simulated reasonably well. The inclusion of cloud microphysics (namely rain re-evaporation) has a modest but significant effect of moistening the lower troposphere in this model. When being subjected to a uniform fractional increase of saturated water vapor pressure, the model produces little change in cloud fraction. A more realistic perturbation, which considers the nonlinearity of the Clausius–Clapeyron relation and spatial structure of CO2-induced warming, results in a substantial reduction in the free-tropospheric cloud fraction. This is reconciled with an increase of relative humidity by analyzing the probability distributions of both quantities, and may help explain partly similar decreases in cloud fraction in full GCMs. The model provides a means to isolate individual processes or model components for studying their influences on cloud simulation in the extratropical free troposphere.
Journal of Climate – American Meteorological Society
Published: Jan 15, 2018
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