Climate Dynamics

, Volume 49, Issue 7–8, pp 2911–2929 | Cite as

Relationships between outgoing longwave radiation and diabatic heating in reanalyses



This study investigates relationships between daily variability in National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) outgoing longwave radiation (OLR), as a proxy for deep convection, and the global diabatic heat budget derived from reanalysis data sets. Results are evaluated based on data from ECMWF Reanalysis (ERA-Interim), Japanese 55-year Reanalysis (JRA-55) and Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA2). The diabatic heating is separated into components linked to ‘physics’ (mainly latent heat fluxes), plus longwave (LW) and shortwave (SW) radiative tendencies. Transient variability in deep convection is highly correlated with diabatic heating throughout the troposphere and stratosphere. Correlation patterns and composite analyses show that enhanced deep convection (lower OLR) is linked to amplified heating in the tropical troposphere and in the mid-latitude storm tracks, tied to latent heat release. Enhanced convection is also linked to radiative cooling in the lower stratosphere, due to weaker upwelling LW from lower altitudes. Enhanced transient deep convection increases LW and decreases SW radiation in the lower troposphere, with opposite effects in the mid to upper troposphere. The compensating effects in LW and SW radiation are largely linked to variations in cloud fraction and water content (vapor, liquid and ice). These radiative balances in reanalyses are in agreement with idealized calculations using a column radiative transfer model. The overall relationships between OLR and diabatic heating are robust among the different reanalyses, although there are differences in radiative tendencies in the tropics due to large differences of cloud water and ice content among the reanalyses. These calculations provide a simple statistical method to quantify variations in diabatic heating linked to transient deep convection in the climate system.


Diabatic heating Outgoing longwave radiation Reanalyses Cloud Longwave Shortwave 



We are grateful for useful discussions with Joowan Kim, Andrew Gettelman, and Thomas Birner, and thank an anonymous reviewer for constructive suggestions. The ERA-Interim diabatic heating datasets were retrieved via ECMWF Web API ( We thank Dr. Shaikh Mohammad, Peirong Lin and Dr. Chen Zhou for technical support. The RRTM code was downloaded from This work was partially supported under the NASA Aura Science Team. The National Center for Atmospheric Research is operated by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, under sponsorship of the National Science Foundation.

Supplementary material

382_2016_3501_MOESM1_ESM.docx (2 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 2097 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Jackson School of GeosciencesThe University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  2. 2.National Center for Atmospheric ResearchBoulderUSA
  3. 3.Dept. of Atmospheric & Oceanic SciencesUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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