Differences in radiative forcing, not sensitivity, explain differences in summertime land temperature variance change between CMIP5 and CMIP6
Chan, Pak Wah
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Keywordcontinental temperature variability; extreme events; soil moisture; radiative forcing; evapotranspiration; CMIP
How summertime temperature variability will change with warming has important implications for climate adaptation and mitigation. CMIP5 simulations indicate a compound risk of extreme hot temperatures in western Europe from both warming and increasing temperature variance. CMIP6 simulations, however, indicate only a moderate increase in temperature variance that does not covary with warming. To explore this intergenerational discrepancy in CMIP results, we decompose changes in monthly temperature variance into those arising from changes in sensitivity to forcing and changes in forcing variance. Across models, sensitivity increases with local warming in both CMIP5 and CMIP6 at an average rate of 5.7 ([3.7, 7.9]; 95% c.i.) × 10−3°C per W m−2 per °C warming. We use a simple model of moist surface energetics to explain increased sensitivity as a consequence of greater atmospheric demand (∼70%) and drier soil (∼40%) that is partially offset by the Planck feedback (∼−10%). Conversely, forcing variance is stable in CMIP5 but decreases with warming in CMIP6 at an average rate of −21 ([−28, −15]; 95% c.i.) W2 m−4 per °C warming. We examine scaling relationships with mean cloud fraction and find that mean forcing variance decreases with decreasing cloud fraction at twice the rate in CMIP6 than CMIP5. The stability of CMIP6 temperature variance is, thus, a consequence of offsetting changes in sensitivity and forcing variance. Further work to determine which models and generations of CMIP simulations better represent changes in cloud radiative forcing is important for assessing risks associated with increased temperature variance.
© The Author(s), 2022. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License. The definitive version was published in Chan, D., Rigden, A., Proctor, J., Chan, P. W., & Huybers, P. Differences in radiative forcing, not sensitivity, explain differences in summertime land temperature variance change between CMIP5 and CMIP6. Earth’s Future, 10(2), (2022): e2021EF002402, https://doi.org/10.1029/2021EF002402.
Suggested CitationChan, D., Rigden, A., Proctor, J., Chan, P. W., & Huybers, P. (2022). Differences in radiative forcing, not sensitivity, explain differences in summertime land temperature variance change between CMIP5 and CMIP6. Earth’s Future, 10(2), e2021EF002402.
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