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Publication Date
1 January 2024

Perturbing Parameters to Understand Cloud Contributions to Climate Change



The sensitivity of cloud feedbacks to atmospheric model parameters is evaluated using a CAM6 perturbed parameter ensemble (PPE). The CAM6 PPE perturbs 45 parameters across 262 simulations, 206 of which are used here. The spread in the total cloud feedback and its six components across the CAM6 PPE are comparable to the spread across the CMIP6 and AMIP ensembles, indicating that parametric uncertainty mirrors structural uncertainty. However, the high-cloud altitude feedback is generally larger in the CAM6 PPE than WCRP assessment, CMIP6, and AMIP values. We evaluate the influence of each of the 45 parameters on the total cloud feedback and each of the six cloud feedback components. We also explore whether the CAM6 PPE can be used to constrain the total cloud feedback, with inconclusive results. Further, we find that despite the large parametric sensitivity of cloud feedbacks in CAM6, a substantial increase in cloud feedbacks from CAM5 to CAM6 is not a result of changes in parameter values. Notably, the CAM6 PPE is run with a more recent version of CAM6 (CAM6.3) than was used for AMIP (CAM6.0) and has a smaller total cloud feedback (0.56 W m−2 K−1) as compared to CAM6.0 (0.81 W m−2 K−1) owing primarily to reductions in low clouds over the tropics and midlatitudes. The work highlights the large sensitivity of cloud feedbacks to both parameter values and structural details in CAM6.

Duffy, Margaret L., Brian Medeiros, Andrew Gettelman, and Trude Eidhammer. 2024. “Perturbing Parameters To Understand Cloud Contributions To Climate Change”. Journal Of Climate 37 (1). American Meteorological Society: 213-227. doi:10.1175/jcli-d-23-0250.1.
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