An energy balance perspective on regional CO2-induced temperature changes in CMIP5 models

Abstract

An energy balance decomposition of temperature changes is conducted for idealized transient CO2-only simulations in the fifth phase of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project. The multimodel global mean warming is dominated by enhanced clear-sky greenhouse effect due to increased CO2 and water vapour, but other components of the energy balance substantially modify the geographical and seasonal patterns of the change. Changes in the net surface energy flux are important over the oceans, being especially crucial for the muted warming over the northern North Atlantic and for the seasonal cycle of warming over the Arctic Ocean. Changes in atmospheric energy flux convergence tend to smooth the gradients of temperature change and reduce its land-sea contrast, but they also amplify the seasonal cycle of warming in northern North America and Eurasia. The three most important terms for intermodel differences in warming are the changes in the clear-sky greenhouse effect, clouds, and the net surface energy flux, making the largest contribution to the standard deviation of annual mean temperature change in 34, 29 and 20 % of the world, respectively. Changes in atmospheric energy flux convergence mostly damp intermodel variations of temperature change especially over the oceans. However, the opposite is true for example in Greenland and Antarctica, where the warming appears to be substantially controlled by heat transport from the surrounding sea areas.

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Acknowledgments

We acknowledge the World Climate Research Programme’s Working Group on Coupled Modelling, which is responsible for CMIP, and we thank the climate modeling groups for producing and making available their model output. For CMIP the U.S. Department of Energy’s Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison provides coordinating support and led development of software infrastructure in partnership with the Global Organization for Earth System Science Portals. This work was supported by the Academy of Finland Centre of Excellence in Atmospheric Science—From Molecular and Biological processes to the Global Climate (project 272041). The two anonymous reviewers are acknowledged for their constructive comments.

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Räisänen, J. An energy balance perspective on regional CO2-induced temperature changes in CMIP5 models. Clim Dyn 48, 3441–3454 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00382-016-3277-2

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Keywords

  • Temperature change
  • Energy budget
  • Atmospheric heat convergence
  • Surface energy flux
  • CMIP5