Climate Dynamics

, Volume 41, Issue 9–10, pp 2679–2696 | Cite as

Quantitative evaluation of the seasonal variations in climate model cloud regimes

  • Yoko Tsushima
  • Mark A. Ringer
  • Mark J. Webb
  • Keith D. Williams
Article

Abstract

An extended cloud-clustering method to assess the seasonal variation of clouds is applied to five CMIP5 models. The seasonal variation of the total cloud radiative effect (CRE) is dominated by variations in the relative frequency of occurrence of the different cloud regimes. Seasonal variations of the CRE within the individual regimes contribute much less. This is the case for both observations, models and model errors. The error in the seasonal variation of cloud regimes, and its breakdown into mean amplitude and time varying components, are quantified with a new metric. The seasonal variation of the CRE of the cloud regimes is relatively well simulated by the models in the tropics, but less well in the extra-tropics. The stratocumulus regime has the largest seasonal variation of shortwave CRE in the tropics, despite having a small magnitude in the climatological mean. Most of the models capture the temporal variation of the CRE reasonably well, with the main differences between models coming from the variation in amplitude. In the extra-tropics, most models fail to correctly represent both the amplitude and time variation of the CRE of congestus, frontal and stratocumulus regimes. The annual mean climatology of the CRE and its amplitude in the seasonal variation are both underestimated for the anvil regime in the tropics, the cirrus regime and the congestus regime in the extra-tropics. The models in this study that best capture the seasonal variation of the cloud regimes tend to have higher climate sensitivities.

Keywords

Cloud regime Cloud metric Seasonal variation Cloud radiative effect Cloud feedback Climate model 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The authors are very grateful to Dr. Alejandro Bodas-Salcedo, who helped constructing the data for the analysis and gave useful comments. The authors are also very grateful to Dr. Hidetoshi Shimodaira, who gave helpful comments on the metrics. They thank the international climate modeling groups, the PCMDI and WCRP’s Working Group on Coupled Modeling for making available the multi-model data set obtained from the phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5). The data set has been indispensable for the study conducted here. The construction of the dataset was supported by the Office of Science, U.S. Department of Energy. The authors are indebted to the Technical Support Unit of IPCC Working Group I for technical support. The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Union, Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement no 244067 via the EU Cloud Intercomparison and Process Study Evaluation Project (EUCLIPSE) and the Joint DECC/Defra Met Office Hadley Centre Climate Programme (GA01101).

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Copyright information

© Crown Copyright 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yoko Tsushima
    • 1
  • Mark A. Ringer
    • 1
  • Mark J. Webb
    • 1
  • Keith D. Williams
    • 1
  1. 1.Met Office Hadley CentreExeter, DevonUK

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