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The Global Character of the Flux of Downward Longwave Radiation

Stephens, G., M. Wild, P. Stackhouse, T. L'Ecuyer, S. Kato, and D. S. Henderson (2012), The Global Character of the Flux of Downward Longwave Radiation, J. Climate, 25, 2329-2340, doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-11-00262.1.

Four different types of estimates of the surface downwelling longwave radiative flux (DLR) are reviewed. One group of estimates synthesizes global cloud, aerosol, and other information in a radiation model that is used to calculate fluxes. Because these synthesis fluxes have been assessed against observations, the globalmean values of these fluxes are deemed to be the most credible of the four different categories reviewed. The global, annual mean DLR lies between approximately 344 and 350 W m22 with an error of approximately 610 W m22 that arises mostly from the uncertainty in atmospheric state that governs the estimation of the clear-sky emission. The authors conclude that the DLR derived from global climate models are biased low by approximately 10 W m22 and even larger differences are found with respect to reanalysis climate data. The DLR inferred from a surface energy balance closure is also substantially smaller that the range found from synthesis products suggesting that current depictions of surface energy balance also require revision. The effect of clouds on the DLR, largely facilitated by the new cloud base information from the CloudSat radar, is estimated to lie in the range from 24 to 34 W m22 for the global cloud radiative effect (all-sky minus clear-sky DLR). This effect is strongly modulated by the underlying water vapor that gives rise to a maximum sensitivity of the DLR to cloud occurring in the colder drier regions of the planet. The bottom of atmosphere (BOA) cloud effect directly contrast the effect of clouds on the top of atmosphere (TOA) fluxes that is maximum in regions of deepest and coldest clouds in the moist tropics.

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