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Publication Date
15 November 2021

Using Radiative Convective Equilibrium to Explore Clouds and Climate in the Community Atmosphere Model



Characteristics of, and fundamental differences between, the radiative-convective equilibrium (RCE) climate states following the Radiative-Convective Equilibrium Model Intercomparison Project (RCEMIP) protocols in the Community Atmosphere Model version 5 (CAM5) and version 6 (CAM6) are presented. This paper explores the characteristics of clouds, moisture, precipitation and circulation in the RCE state, as well as the tropical response to surface warming, in CAM5 and CAM6 with different parameterizations. Overall, CAM5 simulates higher precipitation rates that result in larger global average precipitation, despite lower outgoing longwave radiation compared to CAM6. Differences in the structure of clouds, particularly the amount and vertical location of cloud liquid, exist between the CAM versions and can, in part, be related to distinct representations of shallow convection and boundary layer processes. Both CAM5 and CAM6 simulate similar peaks in cloud fraction, relative humidity, and cloud ice, linked to the usage of a similar deep convection parameterization. These anvil clouds rise and decrease in extent in response to surface warming. More generally, extreme precipitation, aggregation of convection, and climate sensitivity increase with warming in both CAM5 and CAM6. This analysis provides a benchmark for future studies that explore clouds, convection, and climate in CAM with the RCEMIP protocols now available in the Community Earth System Model. These results are discussed within the context of realistic climate simulations using CAM5 and CAM6, highlighting the usefulness of a hierarchical modeling approach to understanding model and parameterization sensitivities to inform model development efforts. 

Reed, Kevin A., Levi G. Silvers, Allison A. Wing, I‐Kuan Hu, and Brian Medeiros. 2021. “Using Radiative Convective Equilibrium To Explore Clouds And Climate In The Community Atmosphere Model”. Journal Of Advances In Modeling Earth Systems 13 (12). American Geophysical Union (AGU). doi:10.1029/2021ms002539.
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