The Community Earth System Model version 2 (CESM2) simulates a high equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS > 5°C) and a Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) that is substantially colder than proxy temperatures. In this study, we examine the role of cloud parameterizations in simulating the LGM cooling in CESM2. Through substituting different versions of cloud schemes in the atmosphere model, we attribute the excessive LGM cooling to the new CESM2 schemes of cloud microphysics and ice nucleation. Further exploration suggests that removing an inappropriate limiter on cloud ice number (NoNimax) and decreasing the time‐step size (substepping) in cloud microphysics largely eliminate the excessive LGM cooling. NoNimax produces a more physically consistent treatment of mixed‐phase clouds, which leads to an increase in cloud ice content and a weaker shortwave cloud feedback over mid‐to‐high latitudes and the Southern Hemisphere subtropics. Microphysical substepping further weakens the shortwave cloud feedback. Based on NoNimax and microphysical substepping, we have developed a paleoclimate‐calibrated CESM2 (PaleoCalibr), which simulates well the observed twentieth century warming and spatial characteristics of key cloud and climate variables. PaleoCalibr has a lower ECS (∼4°C) and a 20% weaker aerosol‐cloud interaction than CESM2. PaleoCalibr represents a physically more consistent treatment of cloud microphysics than CESM2 and is a valuable tool in climate change studies, especially when a large climate forcing is involved. Our study highlights the unique value of paleoclimate constraints in informing the cloud parameterizations and ultimately the future climate projection.
The upper end of the equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS) has increased substantially in the latest Coupled Model Intercomparison Projects phase 6 with eight models (as of this writing) reporting an ECS > 5°C. The Community Earth System Model version 2 (CESM2) is one such high‐ECS model. Here we perform paleoclimate simulations of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) using CESM2 to examine whether its high ECS is realistic. We find that the simulated LGM global mean temperature decrease exceeds 11°C, greater than both the cooling estimated from proxies and simulated by an earlier model version (CESM1). The large LGM cooling in CESM2 is attributed to a strong shortwave cloud feedback in the newest atmosphere model. Our results indicate that the high ECS of CESM2 is incompatible with LGM constraints and that the projected future warming in CESM2, and models with a similarly high ECS, is thus likely too large.more » « less
- Award ID(s):
- NSF-PAR ID:
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- DOI PREFIX: 10.1029
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- Journal Name:
- Geophysical Research Letters
- Medium: X
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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null (Ed.)Abstract. Equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS) has been directly estimated using reconstructions of past climates that are different than today's. A challenge to this approach is that temperature proxies integrate over the timescales of the fast feedback processes (e.g., changes in water vapor, snow, and clouds) that are captured in ECS as well as the slower feedback processes (e.g., changes in ice sheets and ocean circulation) that are not. A way around this issue is to treat the slow feedbacks as climate forcings and independently account for their impact on global temperature. Here we conduct a suite of Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) simulations using the Community Earth System Model version 1.2 (CESM1.2) to quantify the forcingand efficacy of land ice sheets (LISs) and greenhouse gases (GHGs) in order to estimate ECS. Our forcing and efficacy quantification adopts the effective radiative forcing (ERF) and adjustment framework and provides a complete accounting for the radiative, topographic, and dynamical impacts of LIS on surface temperatures. ERF and efficacy of LGM LIS are −3.2 W m−2 and 1.1, respectively. The larger-than-unity efficacy is caused by the temperature changes over land and the Northern Hemisphere subtropical oceans which are relatively larger than those in response to a doubling of atmospheric CO2. The subtropical sea-surface temperature (SST) response is linked to LIS-induced wind changes and feedbacks in ocean–atmosphere coupling and clouds. ERF and efficacy of LGM GHG are −2.8 W m−2 and 0.9, respectively. The lower efficacy is primarily attributed to a smaller cloud feedback at colder temperatures. Our simulations further demonstrate that the direct ECS calculation using the forcing, efficacy, and temperature response in CESM1.2 overestimates the true value in the model by approximately 25 % due to the neglect of slow ocean dynamical feedback. This is supported by the greater cooling (6.8 ∘C) in a fully coupled LGM simulation than that (5.3 ∘C) in a slab ocean model simulation with ocean dynamics disabled. The majority (67 %) of the ocean dynamical feedback is attributed to dynamical changes in the Southern Ocean, where interactions between upper-ocean stratification, heat transport, and sea-ice cover are found to amplify the LGM cooling. Our study demonstrates the value of climate models in the quantification of climate forcings and the ocean dynamical feedback, which is necessary for an accurate direct ECS estimation.more » « less
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The Community Earth System Model Version 2 (CESM2) has an equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS) of 5.3 K. ECS is an emergent property of both climate feedbacks and aerosol forcing. The increase in ECS over the previous version (CESM1) is the result of cloud feedbacks. Interim versions of CESM2 had a land model that damped ECS. Part of the ECS change results from evolving the model configuration to reproduce the long‐term trend of global and regional surface temperature over the twentieth century in response to climate forcings. Changes made to reduce sensitivity to aerosols also impacted cloud feedbacks, which significantly influence ECS. CESM2 simulations compare very well to observations of present climate. It is critical to understand whether the high ECS, outside the best estimate range of 1.5–4.5 K, is plausible.