Can climate sensitivity be estimated from short-term relationships of...

Lin, B., Q. Min, W. Sun, Y. Hu, and T. Fan (2011), Can climate sensitivity be estimated from short-term relationships of top-of-atmosphere net radiation and surface temperature?, J. Quant. Spectrosc. Radiat. Transfer, 112, 177-181, doi:10.1016/j.jqsrt.2010.03.012.

Increasing the knowledge in climate radiative feedbacks is critical for current climate studies. This work focuses on short-term relationships between global mean surface temperature and top-of-atmosphere (TOA) net radiation. The relationships may be used to characterize the climate feedback as suggested by some recent studies. As those recent studies, an energy balance model with ocean mixed layer and both radiative and non-radiative heat sources is used here. The significant improvement of current model is that climate system memories are considered.

Based on model simulations, short-term relationship between global mean surface temperature and TOA net radiation (or the linear striation feature as suggested by previous studies) might represent climate feedbacks when the system had no memories. However, climate systems with the same short-term feedbacks but different memories would have a similar linear striation feature. This linear striation feature reflects only fast components of climate feedbacks and may not represent the total climate feedback even when the memory length of climate systems is minimal. The potential errors in the use of short-term relationships in estimations of climate sensitivity could be big. In short time scales, fast climate processes may overwhelm long-term climate feedbacks. Thus, the climate radiative feedback parameter obtained from short-term data may not provide a reliable estimate of climate sensitivity. This result also suggests that long-term observations of global surface temperature and TOA radiation are critical in the understanding of climate feedbacks and sensitivities.

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Radiation Science Program (RSP)