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Cloud-Resolving Simulation of Low-Cloud Feedback to an Increase in Sea Surface...

Xu, K., A. Cheng, and M. H. Zhang (2010), Cloud-Resolving Simulation of Low-Cloud Feedback to an Increase in Sea Surface Temperature, J. Atmos. Sci., 67, 730-748, doi:10.1175/2009JAS3239.1.

This study investigates the physical mechanisms of the low cloud feedback through cloud-resolving simulations of cloud-radiative equilibrium response to an increase in sea surface temperature (SST). Six pairs of perturbed and control simulations are performed to represent different regimes of low clouds in the subtropical region by specifying SST differences (DSST) in the range of 4 and 14 K between the warm tropical and cool subtropical regions. The SST is uniformly increased by 2 K in the perturbed set of simulations. Equilibrium states are characterized by cumulus and stratocumulus cloud regimes with variable thicknesses and vertical extents for the range of specified DSSTs, with the perturbed set of simulations having higher cloud bases and tops and larger geometric thicknesses. The cloud feedback effect is negative for this DSST range (20.68 to 25.22 W m22 K21) while the clear-sky feedback effect is mostly negative (21.45 to 0.35 W m22 K21). The clear-sky feedback effect contributes greatly to the climate sensitivity parameter for the cumulus cloud regime whereas the cloud feedback effect dominates for the stratocumulus regime. The increase of liquid water path (LWP) and cloud optical depth is related to the increase of cloud thickness and liquid water content with SST. The rates of change in surface latent heat flux are much higher than those of saturation water vapor pressure in the cumulus simulations. The increase in surface latent heat flux is the primary mechanism for the large change of cloud physical properties with 12 K SST, which leads to the negative cloud feedback effects. The changes in cloud fraction also contribute to the negative cloud feedback effects in the cumulus regime. Comparison of these results with prior modeling studies is also discussed.

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Modeling Analysis and Prediction Program (MAP)