Large-scale ice clouds in the GFDL SKYHI general circulation model

Leo J. Donner, Charles J. Seman, Brian J. Soden, Richard S. Hemler, James C. Warren, Johan Ström, Kuo Nan Liou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Ice clouds associated with large-scale atmospheric processes are studied using the SKYHI general circulation model (GCM) and parameterizations for their microphysical and radiative properties. The ice source is deposition from vapor, and the ice sinks are gravitational settling and sublimation. Effective particle sizes for ice distributions are related empirically to temperature. Radiative properties are evaluated as functions of ice path and effective size using approximations to detailed radiative-transfer solutions (Mie theory and geometric ray tracing). The distributions of atmospheric ice and their impact on climate and climate sensitivity are evaluated by integrating the SKYHI GCM (developed at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory) for six model months. Most of the major climatological cirrus regions revealed by satellite observations appear in the GCM. The radiative forcing associated with ice clouds acts to warm the Earth-atmosphere system. Relative to a SKYHI integration without these clouds, zonally averaged temperatures are warmer in the upper tropical troposphere with ice clouds. The presence of ice produced small net changes in the sensitivity of SKYHI climate to radiative perturbations, but this represents an intricate balance among changes in clear-, cloud-, solar-, and longwave-sensitivity components. Deficiencies in the representation of ice clouds are identified as results of biases in the large-scale GCM fields which drive the parameterization and neglect of subgrid variations in these fields, as well as parameterization simplifications of complex microphysical and radiative processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21745-21768
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 27 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Oceanography
  • Forestry
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Palaeontology


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