Quantitative Analysis of Feedbacks in Climate Model Simulations of CO2-Induced Warming

  • Michael E. Schlesinger
Part of the NATO ASI Series book series (ASIC, volume 243)


The CO2-induced warming of the Earth’s surface air temperature simulated by energy balance models (EBMs), radiative-convective models (RCMs) and general circulation models (GCMs) is analyzed in terms of the direct radiative forcing of the increased CO2 concentration, the resultant warming that would occur if the climate system had no feedback mechanisms, and the feedbacks that either enhance or diminish the zero-feedback warming. The total feedback in EBMs ranges from 0 to 0.94 on a scale of −∞ to 1; this wide range is due to the inability of EBMs to determine the behavior of the climate system away from the energy balance level. The total feedback in RCMs ranges from −1.5 to 0.7; this wide range is due to differences in the treatment of the individual feedback mechanisms in RCMs. The total feedback of a single GCM simulation is 0.71, of which water vapor feedback is the single most important contributor, followed by cloud feedback and surface albedo feedback, with the lapse rate feedback making a negative contribution. It is concluded that the analysis of feedbacks in climate model simulations is a useful method of model intercomparison that provides insight on the causes of the differences in the models’ simulated CO2-induced warming.


Cloud Cover Surface Albedo Cloud Feedback Energy Balance Model Liquid Water Path 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael E. Schlesinger
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Atmospheric Sciences and Climatic Research InstituteOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA

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