Examinations of cloud variability and future change in the coupled model intercomparison project phase 3 simulations
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Low-level cloud variability is critical to the radiation balance of Earth due to its wide spatial coverage. Using the adjusted International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP) observations of Clement et al. (2009), and the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 3 (CMIP3) model simulations, this study examines the observed and the simulated low-cloud variations and their relationships with large-scale environmental variables. From the observational analysis, significant correlations are found between low clouds and those of sea surface temperature (SST), lower tropospheric stability (LTS), and sea level pressure (SLP) over tropical marine areas of low cloud prevailing regions during most of the year. Increase of SST coincides with the reduction of LTS and increased vertical motion, which tends to reduce low-level clouds in subtropical oceans. Among the 14 models investigated, CGCM3 and HadGEM1 exhibit more realistic representation of the observed relationship between low-level clouds and large-scale environments. In future climate projection, these two models show a good agreement in the reduction of low-cloud throughout much of the global oceans in response to greenhouse gas forcing, suggesting a positive low-cloud feedback in a climate change context.
Key wordsLow-level clouds cloud feedback climate change CMIP3 global warming cloud radiative effects
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