Investigating the impact of cloud-radiative feedbacks on tropical precipitation extremes

Brian Medeiros, Amy C. Clement, James J. Benedict, Bosong Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Although societally important, extreme precipitation is difficult to represent in climate models. This study shows one robust aspect of extreme precipitation across models: extreme precipitation over tropical oceans is strengthened through a positive feedback with cloud-radiative effects. This connection is shown for a multi-model ensemble with experiments that make clouds transparent to longwave radiation. In all cases, tropical extreme precipitation reduces without cloud-radiative effects. Qualitatively similar results are presented for one model using the cloud-locking method to remove cloud feedbacks. The reduced extreme precipitation without cloud-radiative feedbacks does not arise from changes in the mean climate. Rather, evidence is presented that cloud-radiative feedbacks enhance organization of convection and most extreme precipitation over tropical oceans occurs within organized systems. This result suggests that climate models must correctly predict cloud structure and properties, as well as capture the essence of organized convection in order to accurately represent extreme rainfall.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number18
Journalnpj Climate and Atmospheric Science
Volume4
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Atmospheric Science

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