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Comparison of Radiative Energy Flows in Observational Datasets and Climate...

Raschke, E., S. Kinne, W. Rossow, P. Stackhouse, and M. Wild (2016), Comparison of Radiative Energy Flows in Observational Datasets and Climate Modeling, J. Appl. Meteor. Climat., 55, 93-117, doi:10.1175/JAMC-D-14-0281.1.

This study examines radiative flux distributions and local spread of values from three major observational datasets (CERES, ISCCP, and SRB) and compares them with results from climate modeling (CMIP3). Examinations of the spread and differences also differentiate among contributions from cloudy and clear-sky conditions. The spread among observational datasets is in large part caused by noncloud ancillary data. Average differences of at least 10 W m22 each for clear-sky downward solar, upward solar, and upward infrared fluxes at the surface demonstrate via spatial difference patterns major differences in assumptions for atmospheric aerosol, solar surface albedo and surface temperature, and/or emittance in observational datasets. At the top of the atmosphere (TOA), observational datasets are less influenced by the ancillary data errors than at the surface. Comparisons of spatial radiative flux distributions at the TOA between observations and climate modeling indicate large deficiencies in the strength and distribution of model-simulated cloud radiative effects. Differences are largest for lower-altitude clouds over low-latitude oceans. Global modeling simulates stronger cloud radiative effects (CRE) by 130 W m22 over trade wind cumulus regions, yet smaller CRE by about 230 W m22 over (smaller in area) stratocumulus regions. At the surface, climate modeling simulates on average about 15 W m22 smaller radiative net flux imbalances, as if climate modeling underestimates latent heat release (and precipitation). Relative to observational datasets, simulated surface net fluxes are particularly lower over oceanic trade wind regions (where global modeling tends to overestimate the radiative impact of clouds). Still, with the uncertainty in noncloud ancillary data, observational data do not establish a reliable reference.

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Radiation Science Program (RSP)