Evaluating climate model simulations of the radiative forcing and radiative response at earth's surface

Ryan J. Kramer, Brian J. Soden, Angeline G. Pendergrass

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


We analyze the radiative forcing and radiative response at Earth's surface, where perturbations in the radiation budget regulate the atmospheric hydrological cycle. By applying a radiative kernel-regression technique to CMIP5 climate model simulations where CO2 is instantaneously quadrupled, we evaluate the intermodel spread in surface instantaneous radiative forcing, radiative adjustments to this forcing, and radiative responses to surface warming. The cloud radiative adjustment to CO2 forcing and the temperature-mediated cloud radiative response exhibit significant intermodel spread. In contrast to its counterpart at the top of the atmosphere, the temperature-mediated cloud radiative response at the surface is found to be positive in some models and negative in others. Also, the compensation between the temperature-mediated lapse rate and water vapor radiative responses found in top-of-atmosphere calculations is not present for surface radiative flux changes. Instantaneous radiative forcing at the surface is rarely reported for model simulations; as a result, intermodel differences have not previously been evaluated in global climate models. We demonstrate that the instantaneous radiative forcing is the largest contributor to intermodel spread in effective radiative forcing at the surface. We also find evidence of differences in radiative parameterizations in current models and argue that this is a significant, but largely overlooked, source of bias in climate change simulations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4089-4102
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number13
StatePublished - 2019


  • Feedback
  • Hydrologic cycle
  • Longwave radiation
  • Radiative forcing
  • Radiative transfer
  • Shortwave radiation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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