, Volume 8, Issue 5, pp 225-239

Climate change and the regulation of the surface moisture and energy budgets

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Abstract

The increase in the vigor of the hydrological cycle simulated in a 2 × CO2 experiment with the Canadian Climate Centre general circulation model is smaller than that obtained by other models which have similar increases in mean surface temperature. The surface energy budget, which encompasses also the moisture budget for the oceans, is analyzed. Changes in the net radiative input to and sensible heat flux from the surface act to warm it. This is balanced, at the new equilibrium, by a change in the latent heat flux which acts to cool it. Although this same general behavior is seen in other models, the increase in radiative input to the surface in the CCC GCM is smaller than in other models while the change in the sensible heat flux is of similar size. As a consequence, the latent heat flux required for balance is smaller. The comparatively small increase in the net radiative input at the surface occurs because of a decrease in the solar component. On average the decrease in solar input in the tropical region outweighs the higher latitude increase associated with the snow/ice albedo feedback. The notable tropical decrease in solar input occurs because the albedo of the clouds increase enough in this region to outweigh a small decrease in cloud amount. The increase in cloud albedo in the warmer and moister tropical atmosphere is a consequence of the parameterized cloud optical properties in the model which play an important role in the regulation of the surface energy and moisture budgets. The results demonstrate some of the consequences of the negative feedback mechanism associated with increasing cloud albedo in the model. They also suggest that the simulated change in the vigor of the hydrological cycle is not a simple function of the average increase in surface temperature but is a consequence of all of the processes in the model which control the available energy at the surface as a function of latitude.