The contribution of radiative feedbacks to orbitally driven climate change

Michael P. Erb, Anthony J. Broccoli, Amy C. Clement

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Radiative feedbacks influence Earth's climate response to orbital forcing, amplifying some aspects of the response while damping others. To better understand this relationship, the GFDL Climate Model, version 2.1 (CM2.1), is used to perform idealized simulations in which only orbital parameters are altered while ice sheets, atmospheric composition, and other climate forcings are prescribed at preindustrial levels. These idealized simulations isolate the climate response and radiative feedbacks to changes in obliquity and longitude of the perihelion alone. Analysis shows that, despite being forced only by a redistribution of insolation with no global annual-mean component, feedbacks induce significant global-mean climate change, resulting in mean temperature changes of 20.5K in a lowered obliquity experiment and 10.6K in a NH winter solstice perihelion minus NH summer solstice perihelion experiment. In the obliquity experiment, some global-mean temperature response may be attributable to vertical variations in the transport of moist static energy anomalies, which can affect radiative feedbacks in remote regions by altering atmospheric stability. In the precession experiment, cloud feedbacks alter the Arctic radiation balance with possible implications for glaciation. At times when the orbital configuration favors glaciation, reductions in cloud water content and low-cloud fraction partially counteract changes in summer insolation, posing an additional challenge to understanding glacial inception.Additionally, several systems, such as the Hadley circulation and monsoons, influence climate feedbacks in ways that would not be anticipated from analysis of feedbacks in the more familiar case of anthropogenic forcing, emphasizing the complexity of feedback responses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5897-5914
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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