Revisiting the surface-energy-flux perspective on the sensitivity of global precipitation to climate change
- 666 Downloads
Climate models simulate an increase in global precipitation at a rate of approximately 1–3% per Kelvin of global surface warming. This change is often interpreted through the lens of the atmospheric energy budget, in which the increase in global precipitation is mostly offset by an increase in net radiative cooling. Other studies have provided different interpretations from the perspective of the surface, where evaporation represents the turbulent transfer of latent heat to the atmosphere. Expanding on this surface perspective, here we derive a version of the Penman–Monteith equation that allows the change in ocean evaporation to be partitioned into a thermodynamic response to surface warming, and additional diagnostic contributions from changes in surface radiation, ocean heat uptake, and boundary-layer dynamics/relative humidity. In this framework, temperature is found to be the primary control on the rate of increase in global precipitation within model simulations of greenhouse gas warming, while the contributions from changes in surface radiation and ocean heat uptake are found to be secondary. The temperature contribution also dominates the spatial pattern of global evaporation change, leading to the largest fractional increases at high latitudes. In the surface energy budget, the thermodynamic increase in evaporation comes at the expense of the sensible heat flux, while radiative changes cause the sensible heat flux to increase. These tendencies on the sensible heat flux partly offset each other, resulting in a relatively small change in the global mean, and contributing to an impression that global precipitation is radiatively constrained.
KeywordsHydrologic cycle Global warming
We are very grateful to Ray Pierrehumbert and four anonymous reviewers for their excellent comments that greatly improved the paper.
This work was supported by the National Science Foundation (AGS-1752796 [KCA] and AGS-1524569 [NF]).
- Allen M, Ingram WJ (2002) Constraints on future changes in climate and the hydrologic cycle. Nature 419(6903):224–232Google Scholar
- Frieler K, Meinshausen M, Schneider von Deimling T, Andrews T, Forster P (2011) Changes in global-mean precipitation in response to warming, greenhouse gas forcing and black carbon. Geophys Res Lett 38(4). https://doi.org/10.1029/2010GL045953
- Le Hir G, Donnadieu Y, Goddéris Y, Pierrehumbert RT, Halverson GP, Macouin M, Nédélec A, Ramstein G (2009) The snowball earth aftermath: exploring the limits of continental weathering processes. Earth Planet Sci Lett 277(3–4):453–463. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.epsl.2008.11.010 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Manabe S, Wetherald RT (1975) The effects of doubling the CO\(\_2\) concentration on the climate of a general circulation model. J Atmos Sci 32(1):3–15. https://doi.org/10.1175/1520-0469(1975) 032<0003:TEODTC>2.0.CO;2Google Scholar
- McInerney D, Moyer E (2012) Direct and disequilibrium effects on precipitation in transient climates. Atmos Chem Phys Discuss 12(8):19649–19681. https://doi.org/10.5194/acpd-12-19649-2012. http://www.atmos-chem-phys-discuss.net/12/19649/2012/
- Meehl GA, Covey C, Delworth T, Latif M, McAvaney B, Mitchell JFB, Stouffer RJ, Taylor KE, Meehl GA, Covey C, Delworth T, Latif M, McAvaney B, Mitchell JFB, Stouffer RJ, Taylor KE (2007) THE WCRP CMIP3 multimodel dataset: a new era in climate change research. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 88(9):1383–1394. https://doi.org/10.1175/BAMS-88-9-1383 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Pierrehumbert RT (1999) Subtropical water vapor as a mediator of rapid global climate change. In: Mechanisms of global climate change at millennial time scales, pp 339–361. https://doi.org/10.1029/GM112p0339
- Priestly CHB, Taylor RJ (1972) On the assessment of surface heat flux and evaporation using large-scale parameters. Mon Weather Rev 100(2):81–92. https://doi.org/10.1175/1520-0493(1972) 100<0081:OTAOSH>2.3.CO;2Google Scholar
- Samset BH, Myhre G, Forster PM, Hodnebrog Ø, Andrews T, Faluvegi G, Fläschner D, Kasoar M, Kharin V, Kirkevåg A, Lamarque JF, Olivié D, Richardson T, Shindell D, Shine KP, Takemura T, Voulgarakis A (2016) Fast and slow precipitation responses to individual climate forcers: a PDRMIP multimodel study. Geophys Res Lett 43(6):2782–2791. https://doi.org/10.1002/2016GL068064 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Trenberth KE, Dai A (2007) Effects of Mount Pinatubo volcanic eruption on the hydrological cycle as an analog of geoengineering. Geophys Res Lett 34(15). https://doi.org/10.1029/2007GL030524
- Wetherald RT, Manabe S, Wetherald RT, Manabe S (1975) The effects of changing the solar constant on the climate of a general circulation model. J Atmos Sci 32(11):2044–2059. https://doi.org/10.1175/1520-0469(1975) 032<2044:TEOCTS>2.0.CO;2Google Scholar