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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 May 7;110(19):7568-73. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1216174110. Epub 2013 Apr 23.

Assessment of radiative feedback in climate models using satellite observations of annual flux variation.

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  • 1Met Office Hadley Centre, Exeter EX1 3PB, United Kingdom. yoko.tsushima@metoffice.gov.uk


In the climate system, two types of radiative feedback are in operation. The feedback of the first kind involves the radiative damping of the vertically uniform temperature perturbation of the troposphere and Earth's surface that approximately follows the Stefan-Boltzmann law of blackbody radiation. The second kind involves the change in the vertical lapse rate of temperature, water vapor, and clouds in the troposphere and albedo of the Earth's surface. Using satellite observations of the annual variation of the outgoing flux of longwave radiation and that of reflected solar radiation at the top of the atmosphere, this study estimates the so-called "gain factor," which characterizes the strength of radiative feedback of the second kind that operates on the annually varying, global-scale perturbation of temperature at the Earth's surface. The gain factor is computed not only for all sky but also for clear sky. The gain factor of so-called "cloud radiative forcing" is then computed as the difference between the two. The gain factors thus obtained are compared with those obtained from 35 models that were used for the fourth and fifth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment. Here, we show that the gain factors obtained from satellite observations of cloud radiative forcing are effective for identifying systematic biases of the feedback processes that control the sensitivity of simulated climate, providing useful information for validating and improving a climate model.


CERES; CMIP; ERBE; cloud feedback; metric of radiative feedback

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