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Monitoring present day changes in water vapour and the radiative energy balance using satellite data, reanalyses and models

By Richard Philip Allan


A combination of satellite data, reanalysis products and climate models are combined to monitor changes in water vapour, clear-sky radiative cooling of the atmosphere and precipitation over the period 1979-2006. Climate models are able to simulate observed increases in column integrated water vapour (CWV) with surface temperature (Ts) over the ocean. Changes in the observing system lead to spurious variability in water vapour and clear-sky longwave radiation in reanalysis products. Nevertheless all products considered exhibit a robust increase in clear-sky longwave radiative cooling from the atmosphere to the surface; clear-sky longwave radiative cooling of the atmosphere is found to increase with Ts at the rate of ~4 Wm-2 K-1 over tropical ocean regions of mean descending vertical motion. Precipitation (P) is tightly coupled to atmospheric radiative cooling rates and this implies an increase in P with warming at a slower rate than the observed increases in CWV. Since convective precipitation depends on moisture convergence, the above implies enhanced precipitation over convective regions and reduced precipitation over convectively suppressed regimes. To quantify this response, observed and simulated changes in precipitation rate are analysed separately over regions of mean ascending and descending vertical motion over the tropics. The observed response is found to be substantially larger than the model simulations and climate change projections. It is currently not clear whether this is due to deficiencies in model parametrizations or errors in satellite retrievals

Topics: 551
Publisher: EUMETSAT
Year: 2007
OAI identifier:

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