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Publication Date
20 March 2020

The effect of atmospheric transmissivity on model and observational estimates of the sea ice albedo feedback



The sea-ice-albedo feedback (SIAF) is the product of the ice sensitivity (IS) – how much the surface albedo in sea-ice regions changes as the planet warms– and the radiative sensitivity (RS) – how much the top of atmosphere radiation changes as the surface albedo changes. We demonstrate that the RS calculated from radiative kernels in climate models is reproduced from calculations using the “approximate partial radiative perturbation” method that uses the climatological radiative fluxes at the top of atmosphere and the assumption that the atmosphere is isotropic to shortwave radiation. This method facilitates the comparison of RS from satellite-based estimates of climatological radiative fluxes with RS estimates across a full suite of coupled climate models and, thus, allows model evaluation of a quantity important in characterizing the climate impact of sea ice concentration changes. The satellite based RS is within the model range of RS that differs by a factor of two across climate models in both the Arctic and Southern Ocean. Observed trends in Arctic sea ice are used to estimate IS which, in conjunction with the satellite-based RS yields an SIAF of 0.16 ± 0.04 W m−2 K−1. This Arctic SIAF estimate suggests a modest amplification of future global surface temperature change by approximately 14% relative to a climate system with no SIAF. We calculate the global albedo feedback in climate models using model specific RS and IS and find a model mean feedback parameter of 0.37 W m−2 K−1 which is 40% larger than the IPCC AR5 estimate based on using RS calculated from radiative kernel calculations in a single climate model.
“The Effect Of Atmospheric Transmissivity On Model And Observational Estimates Of The Sea Ice Albedo Feedback”. 2020. Journal Of Climate. doi:10.1175/jcli-d-19-0674.1.
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