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Author ORCID ID is 000000025476858X
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  1. All the weather and climate models participating in the Clouds Above the United States and Errors at the Surface project show a summertime surface air temperature (T2 m) warm bias in the region of the central United States. To understand the warm bias in long-term climate simulations, we assess the Atmospheric Model Intercomparison Project simulations from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5, with long-term observations mainly from the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement program Southern Great Plains site. Quantities related to the surface energy and water budget, and large-scale circulation are analyzed to identify possible factors and plausible links involved inmore » the warm bias. The systematic warm season bias is characterized by an overestimation of T2 m and underestimation of surface humidity, precipitation, and precipitable water. Accompanying the warm bias is an overestimation of absorbed solar radiation at the surface, which is due to a combination of insufficient cloud reflection and clear-sky shortwave absorption by water vapor and an underestimation in surface albedo. The bias in cloud is shown to contribute most to the radiation bias. The surface layer soil moisture impacts T2 m through its control on evaporative fraction. The error in evaporative fraction is another important contributor to T2 m. Similar sources of error are found in hindcast from other Clouds Above the United States and Errors at the Surface studies. In Atmospheric Model Intercomparison Project simulations, biases in meridional wind velocity associated with the low-level jet and the 500 hPa vertical velocity may also relate to T2 m bias through their control on the surface energy and water budget.« less
  2. Many Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP) and climate models exhibit too warm lower tropospheres near the midlatitude continents. The warm bias has been shown to coincide with important surface radiation biases that likely play a critical role in the inception or the growth of the warm bias. This paper presents an attribution study on the net radiation biases in nine model simulations, performed in the framework of the CAUSES project (Clouds Above the United States and Errors at the Surface). Contributions from deficiencies in the surface properties, clouds, water vapor, and aerosols are quantified, using an array of radiation measurement stationsmore » near the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Southern Great Plains site. Furthermore, an in-depth analysis is shown to attribute the radiation errors to specific cloud regimes. The net surface shortwave radiation is overestimated in all models throughout most of the simulation period. Cloud errors are shown to contribute most to this overestimation, although nonnegligible contributions from the surface albedo exist in most models. Missing deep cloud events and/or simulating deep clouds with too weak cloud radiative effects dominate in the cloud-related radiation errors. Some models have compensating errors between excessive occurrence of deep cloud but largely underestimating their radiative effect, while other models miss deep cloud events altogether. Surprisingly, even the latter models tend to produce too much and too frequent afternoon surface precipitation. This suggests that rather than issues with the triggering of deep convection, cloud radiative deficiencies are related to too weak convective cloud detrainment and too large precipitation efficiencies.« less
  3. Many weather forecast and climate models simulate warm surface air temperature (T 2m) biases over midlatitude continents during the summertime, especially over the Great Plains. We present here one of a series of papers from a multimodel intercomparison project (CAUSES: Cloud Above the United States and Errors at the Surface), which aims to evaluate the role of cloud, radiation, and precipitation biases in contributing to the T 2m bias using a short-term hindcast approach during the spring and summer of 2011. Observations are mainly from the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Southern Great Plains sites. The present study examines the contributions ofmore » surface energy budget errors. All participating models simulate too much net shortwave and longwave fluxes at the surface but with no consistent mean bias sign in turbulent fluxes over the Central United States and Southern Great Plains. Nevertheless, biases in the net shortwave and downward longwave fluxes as well as surface evaporative fraction (EF) are contributors to T 2m bias. Radiation biases are largely affected by cloud simulations, while EF bias is largely affected by soil moisture modulated by seasonal accumulated precipitation and evaporation. An approximate equation based upon the surface energy budget is derived to further quantify the magnitudes of radiation and EF contributions to T 2m bias. Our analysis ascribes that a large EF underestimate is the dominant source of error in all models with a large positive temperature bias, whereas an EF overestimate compensates for an excess of absorbed shortwave radiation in nearly all the models with the smallest temperature bias.« less
  4. We introduce the Clouds Above the United States and Errors at the Surface (CAUSES) project with its aim of better understanding the physical processes leading to warm screen temperature biases over the American Midwest in many numerical models. In this first of four companion papers, 11 different models, from nine institutes, perform a series of 5 day hindcasts, each initialized from reanalyses. After describing the common experimental protocol and detailing each model configuration, a gridded temperature data set is derived from observations and used to show that all the models have a warm bias over parts of the Midwest. Additionally,more » a strong diurnal cycle in the screen temperature bias is found in most models. In some models the bias is largest around midday, while in others it is largest during the night. At the Department of Energy Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Southern Great Plains (SGP) site, the model biases are shown to extend several kilometers into the atmosphere. Finally, to provide context for the companion papers, in which observations from the SGP site are used to evaluate the different processes contributing to errors there, it is shown that there are numerous locations across the Midwest where the diurnal cycle of the error is highly correlated with the diurnal cycle of the error at SGP. This suggests that conclusions drawn from detailed evaluation of models using instruments located at SGP will be representative of errors that are prevalent over a larger spatial scale.« less
  5. Here, the response to warming of tropical low-level clouds including both marine stratocumulus and trade cumulus is a major source of uncertainty in projections of future climate. Climate model simulations of the response vary widely, reflecting the difficulty the models have in simulating these clouds. These inadequacies have led to alternative approaches to predict low-cloud feedbacks. Here, we review an observational approach that relies on the assumption that observed relationships between low clouds and the “cloud-controlling factors” of the large-scale environment are invariant across time-scales. With this assumption, and given predictions of how the cloud-controlling factors change with climate warming,more » one can predict low-cloud feedbacks without using any model simulation of low clouds. We discuss both fundamental and implementation issues with this approach and suggest steps that could reduce uncertainty in the predicted low-cloud feedback. Recent studies using this approach predict that the tropical low-cloud feedback is positive mainly due to the observation that reflection of solar radiation by low clouds decreases as temperature increases, holding all other cloud-controlling factors fixed. The positive feedback from temperature is partially offset by a negative feedback from the tendency for the inversion strength to increase in a warming world, with other cloud-controlling factors playing a smaller role. A consensus estimate from these studies for the contribution of tropical low clouds to the global mean cloud feedback is 0.25 ± 0.18 W m –2 K –1 (90% confidence interval), suggesting it is very unlikely that tropical low clouds reduce total global cloud feedback. Because the prediction of positive tropical low-cloud feedback with this approach is consistent with independent evidence from low-cloud feedback studies using high-resolution cloud models, progress is being made in reducing this key climate uncertainty.« less
  6. Several independent measurements of warm-season soil moisture and surface atmospheric variables recorded at the ARM Southern Great Plains (SGP) research facility are used to estimate the terrestrial component of land-atmosphere coupling (LAC) strength and its regional uncertainty. The observations reveal substantial variation in coupling strength, as estimated from three soil moisture measurements at a single site, as well as across six other sites having varied soil and land cover types. The observational estimates then serve as references for evaluating SGP terrestrial coupling strength in the Community Atmospheric Model coupled to the Community Land Model. These coupled model components are operatedmore » in both a free-running mode and in a controlled configuration, where the atmospheric and land states are reinitialized daily, so that they do not drift very far from observations. Although the controlled simulation deviates less from the observed surface climate than its free-running counterpart, the terrestrial LAC in both configurations is much stronger and displays less spatial variability than the SGP observational estimates. Preliminary investigation of vegetation leaf area index (LAI) substituted for soil moisture suggests that the overly strong coupling between model soil moisture and surface atmospheric variables is associated with too much evaporation from bare ground and too little from the vegetation cover. Lastly, these results imply that model surface characteristics such as LAI, as well as the physical parameterizations involved in the coupling of the land and atmospheric components, are likely to be important sources of the problematical LAC behaviors.« less
  7. The spatial pattern of sea surface temperature (SST) changes has a large impact on the magnitude of cloud feedback. In this study, we seek a basic understanding of the dependence of cloud feedback on the spatial pattern of warming. Idealized experiments are carried out with an AGCM to calculate the change in global mean cloud-induced radiation anomalies (ΔR cloud) in response to imposed surface warming/cooling in 74 individual localized oceanic “patches”. Then the cloud feedback in response to a specific warming pattern can be approximated as the superposition of global cloud feedback in response to a temperature change in eachmore » region, weighted by the magnitude of the local temperature changes. When there is a warming in the tropical subsidence or extratropical regions, the local decrease of LCC results in a positive change in R cloud. Conversely, warming in tropical ascent regions increases the free-tropospheric temperature throughout the tropics, thereby enhancing the inversion strength over remote regions and inducing positive global low-cloud cover (LCC) anomalies and negative Rcloud anomalies. The Green's function approach performs reasonably well in predicting the response of global mean ΔLCC and net ΔR cloud, but poorly for shortwave and longwave components of ΔR cloud due to its ineffectiveness in predicting middle and high cloud cover changes. Finally, the approach successfully captures the change of cloud feedback in response to time-evolving CO 2-induced warming and captures the interannual variations in ΔR cloud observed by CERES. The results highlight important nonlocal influences of SST changes on cloud feedback.« less
  8. The Community Atmosphere Model (CAM) adopts Cloud Layers Unified By Binormals (CLUBB) scheme and an updated microphysics (MG2) scheme for a more unified treatment of cloud processes. This makes interactions between parameterizations tighter and more explicit. In this study, a cloudy planetary boundary layer (PBL) oscillation related to interaction between CLUBB and MG2 is identified in CAM. This highlights the need for consistency between the coupled subgrid processes in climate model development. This oscillation occurs most often in the marine cumulus cloud regime. The oscillation occurs only if the modeled PBL is strongly decoupled and precipitation evaporates below the cloud.more » Two aspects of the parameterized coupling assumptions between CLUBB and MG2 schemes cause the oscillation: (1) a parameterized relationship between rain evaporation and CLUBB's subgrid spatial variance of moisture and heat that induces an extra cooling in the lower PBL and (2) rain evaporation which happens at a too low an altitude because of the precipitation fraction parameterization in MG2. Either one of these two conditions can overly stabilize the PBL and reduce the upward moisture transport to the cloud layer so that the PBL collapses. Global simulations prove that turning off the evaporation-variance coupling and improving the precipitation fraction parameterization effectively reduces the cloudy PBL oscillation in marine cumulus clouds. By evaluating the causes of the oscillation in CAM, we have identified the PBL processes that should be examined in models having similar oscillations. This study may draw the attention of the modeling and observational communities to the issue of coupling between parameterized physical processes.« less
  9. Feedbacks of clouds on climate change strongly influence the magnitude of global warming. Cloud feedbacks, in turn, depend on the spatial patterns of surface warming, which vary on decadal timescales. Therefore, the magnitude of the decadal cloud feedback could deviate from the long-term cloud feedback. We present climate model simulations to show that the global mean cloud feedback in response to decadal temperature fluctuations varies dramatically due to time variations in the spatial pattern of sea surface temperature. Here, we find that cloud anomalies associated with these patterns significantly modify the Earth’s energy budget. Specifically, the decadal cloud feedback betweenmore » the 1980s and 2000s is substantially more negative than the long-term cloud feedback. This is a result of cooling in tropical regions where air descends, relative to warming in tropical ascent regions, which strengthens low-level atmospheric stability. Under these conditions, low-level cloud cover and its reflection of solar radiation increase, despite an increase in global mean surface temperature. Our results suggest that sea surface temperature pattern-induced low cloud anomalies could have contributed to the period of reduced warming between 1998 and 2013, and o er a physical explanation of why climate sensitivities estimated from recently observed trends are probably biased low.« less
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