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Publication Date
1 April 2018

Sources of Intermodel Spread in the Lapse Rate and Water Vapor Feedbacks



Sources of intermodel differences in the global lapse rate (LR) and water vapor (WV) feedbacks are assessed using CO2 forcing simulations from 28 general circulation models. Tropical surface warming leads to significant warming and moistening in the tropical and extratropical upper troposphere, signifying a nonlocal, tropical influence on extratropical radiation and feedbacks. Model spread in the locally defined LR and WV feedbacks is pronounced in the Southern Ocean because of large-scale ocean upwelling, which reduces surface warming and decouples the surface from the tropospheric response. The magnitude of local extratropical feedbacks across models and over time is well characterized using the ratio of tropical to extratropical surface warming. It is shown that model differences in locally defined LR and WV feedbacks, particularly over the southern extratropics, drive model variability in the global feedbacks. The cross-modal correlation between the global LR and WV feedbacks, therefore, does not arise from their covariation in the tropics, but rather from the pattern of warming exerting a common control on extratropical feedback responses. Because local feedbacks over the Southern Hemisphere are an important contributor to the global feedback, the partitioning of surface warming between the tropics and the southern extratropics is a key determinant of the spread in the global LR and WV feedbacks. It is also shown that model Antarctic sea ice climatology influences sea ice area changes and southern extratropical surface warming. As a result, model discrepancies in climatological Antarctic sea ice area have a significant impact on the intermodel spread of the global LR and WV feedbacks.
“Sources Of Intermodel Spread In The Lapse Rate And Water Vapor Feedbacks ”. 2018. Journal Of Climate 31: 3187-3206. doi:10.1175/jcli-d-17-0674.1.
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