Earth's albedo in a changing climate
2009 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
The albedo is a key parameter in the radiative budget of the Earth and a primary determinant of the planetary temperature and is therefore also central to questions regarding climate stability, climate change and climate sensitivity. Climate models and satellite observations are essential for studying the albedo, and the parameters determining it, on large spatial and temporal scales. Although climate models are able to capture the large-scale characteristics of the albedo, a bias is found between modelled and observed global albedo estimates, and on a regional scale particular problematic regions can be identified.
Cloud parameters, that are of great importance for determining the albedo, vary widely among models, but lack of observations makes constraining models, and even evaluating models, difficult. The freedom of variability for cloud parameters can be used to make models agree with observations of the better constrained radiative budget. It is shown that tuning a model to different radiative budget estimates by altering cloud parameters can influence the climate sensitivity of the model, but the effect seen is small, compared to the range of climate sensitivities estimated by different models.
Despite their different parameterizations of clouds, aerosols etc., models do have fundamental features in common, which can further the understanding of the real climate system. For instance it is found that sensitivity to volcanic forcing is related to climate sensitivity in an ensemble of models. If this relation is valid for the real climate as well, observations of the volcanic sensitivity can help restrict the climate sensitivity.
The range of climate sensitivity estimates in models can largely be attributed to variations in cloud response to forcing. It is found that in models with high climate sensitivity changes in cloud cover and cloud reflectivity enhance a positive radiative forcing due to increased CO2 concentrations, feeding back on the warming and in models with low climate sensitivity, cloud response counteracts the positive radiative forcing and warming induced by the same forcing.
As a consequence the total albedo response to increased CO2 forcing is found to be stronger (more negative) in high sensitivity models and vice versa.
Cloud albedo and its variation between different cloud regimes, is important in this regard, yet not well known. A method based on the relation between cloud fraction and albedo is presented, giving a way to estimate regional cloud albedo, primarily for homogeneous cloud regimes, but possibly also extended to a global scale.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Meteorology, Stockholm University , 2009. , 28 p.
albedo, Earth's radiative budget, cloud properties, climate sensitivity, CMIP3, GCMs, satellite observations
Research subject Atmospheric Sciences
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-26982ISBN: 97891-7155-873-2OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-26982DiVA: diva2:213632
2009-05-28, De Geersalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 8 A, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Collins, William, Professor
Rodhe, Henning, ProfessorEkman, Annica, Dr.
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