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Origins of climate model discrepancies in atmospheric shortwave absorption and global precipitation changes

  • Author(s): Fildier, B
  • Collins, WD
  • et al.

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© 2015. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved. Projected increases in mean precipitation are constrained by the atmospheric energy budget through radiative-convective equilibrium. However, significant differences persist between climate models on the rate of increase in precipitation per unit warming, mostly arising from the clear-sky radiative response. While the intermodel spread in clear-sky longwave cooling has been explained by climate feedbacks, the sources of spread in clear-sky shortwave heating are still unclear. This article focuses on the latter. Since water vapor contributes most of the atmospheric shortwave absorption, both intermodel differences in its spatial distribution and in radiative transfer parameterizations are plausible hypotheses for the spread. This work reestablishes the primary contribution from water vapor relative to other shortwave-absorbing species and evaluates the validity of both hypotheses. It is found that the intermodel spread in shortwave absorption change most likely originates from the radiation schemes, possibly because of simplifications induced by their low spectral resolutions. Key Points Water vapor appears as the main cause of intermodel differences in atmospheric shortwave absorption Such discrepancies seem to come from the shortwave radiative transfer formulation for water vapor Errors arising from the coarse spectral resolution in radiation schemes could explain this spread

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