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Title: Clouds at Barbados are representative of clouds across the trade wind regions in observations and climate models

Abstract

Trade wind regions cover most of the tropical oceans, and the prevailing cloud type is shallow cumulus. These small clouds are parameterized by climate models, and changes in their radiative effects strongly and directly contribute to the spread in estimates of climate sensitivity. This study investigates the structure and variability of these clouds in observations and climate models. The study builds upon recent detailed model evaluations using observations from the island of Barbados. Using a dynamical regimes framework, satellite and reanalysis products are used to compare the Barbados region and the broader tropics. It is shown that clouds in the Barbados region are similar to those across the trade wind regions, implying that observational findings from the Barbados Cloud Observatory are relevant to clouds across the tropics. The same methods are applied to climate models to evaluate the simulated clouds. The models generally capture the cloud radiative effect, but underestimate cloud cover and show an array of cloud vertical structures. Some models show strong biases in the environment of the Barbados region in summer, weakening the connection between the regional biases and those across the tropics. Even bearing that limitation in mind, it is shown that covariations of cloud andmore » environmental properties in the models are inconsistent with observations. The models tend to misrepresent sensitivity to moisture variations and inversion characteristics. These model errors are likely connected to cloud feedback in climate projections, and highlight the importance of the representation of shallow cumulus convection.« less

Authors:
ORCiD logo;
Publication Date:
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE
OSTI Identifier:
1253386
Grant/Contract Number:  
FC02-97ER62402
Resource Type:
Published Article
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Name: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Journal Volume: 113 Journal Issue: 22; Journal ID: ISSN 0027-8424
Publisher:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English

Citation Formats

Medeiros, Brian, and Nuijens, Louise. Clouds at Barbados are representative of clouds across the trade wind regions in observations and climate models. United States: N. p., 2016. Web. doi:10.1073/pnas.1521494113.
Medeiros, Brian, & Nuijens, Louise. Clouds at Barbados are representative of clouds across the trade wind regions in observations and climate models. United States. doi:10.1073/pnas.1521494113.
Medeiros, Brian, and Nuijens, Louise. Mon . "Clouds at Barbados are representative of clouds across the trade wind regions in observations and climate models". United States. doi:10.1073/pnas.1521494113.
@article{osti_1253386,
title = {Clouds at Barbados are representative of clouds across the trade wind regions in observations and climate models},
author = {Medeiros, Brian and Nuijens, Louise},
abstractNote = {Trade wind regions cover most of the tropical oceans, and the prevailing cloud type is shallow cumulus. These small clouds are parameterized by climate models, and changes in their radiative effects strongly and directly contribute to the spread in estimates of climate sensitivity. This study investigates the structure and variability of these clouds in observations and climate models. The study builds upon recent detailed model evaluations using observations from the island of Barbados. Using a dynamical regimes framework, satellite and reanalysis products are used to compare the Barbados region and the broader tropics. It is shown that clouds in the Barbados region are similar to those across the trade wind regions, implying that observational findings from the Barbados Cloud Observatory are relevant to clouds across the tropics. The same methods are applied to climate models to evaluate the simulated clouds. The models generally capture the cloud radiative effect, but underestimate cloud cover and show an array of cloud vertical structures. Some models show strong biases in the environment of the Barbados region in summer, weakening the connection between the regional biases and those across the tropics. Even bearing that limitation in mind, it is shown that covariations of cloud and environmental properties in the models are inconsistent with observations. The models tend to misrepresent sensitivity to moisture variations and inversion characteristics. These model errors are likely connected to cloud feedback in climate projections, and highlight the importance of the representation of shallow cumulus convection.},
doi = {10.1073/pnas.1521494113},
journal = {Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America},
number = 22,
volume = 113,
place = {United States},
year = {2016},
month = {5}
}

Journal Article:
Free Publicly Available Full Text
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DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1521494113

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Cited by: 5 works
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