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Science. 2016 Apr 8;352(6282):224-7. doi: 10.1126/science.aad5300.

Observational constraints on mixed-phase clouds imply higher climate sensitivity.

Author information

1
Department of Geology and Geophysics, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06511, USA. ivy.tan@yale.edu.
2
Department of Geology and Geophysics, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06511, USA.
3
Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, CA 94550, USA.

Abstract

Global climate model (GCM) estimates of the equilibrium global mean surface temperature response to a doubling of atmospheric CO2, measured by the equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS), range from 2.0° to 4.6°C. Clouds are among the leading causes of this uncertainty. Here we show that the ECS can be up to 1.3°C higher in simulations where mixed-phase clouds consisting of ice crystals and supercooled liquid droplets are constrained by global satellite observations. The higher ECS estimates are directly linked to a weakened cloud-phase feedback arising from a decreased cloud glaciation rate in a warmer climate. We point out the need for realistic representations of the supercooled liquid fraction in mixed-phase clouds in GCMs, given the sensitivity of the ECS to the cloud-phase feedback.

PMID:
27124459
DOI:
10.1126/science.aad5300
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