The climate response to increased cloud liquid water over the Arctic in CESM1: a sensitivity study of Wegener–Bergeron–Findeisen process

Yiyi Huang, Xiquan Dong, Jennifer E. Kay, Baike Xi, Elin A. McIlhattan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The surface radiative imbalance has large impacts on the long-term trends and year-to-year variability of Arctic sea ice. Clouds are believed to be a key factor in regulating this radiative imbalance, whose underlying processes and mechanisms, however, are not well understood. Compared with observations, the Community Earth System Model version 1 (CESM1) is known to underestimate Arctic cloud liquid water. Here, the following hypothesis is proposed and tested: this underestimation is caused by an overactive Wegener–Bergeron–Findeisen (WBF) process in model as too many supercooled liquid droplets are scavenged by ice crystals via deposition. In this study, the efficiency of the WBF process in CESM1 was reduced to investigate the Arctic climate response, and differentiate the responses induced by atmosphere–ocean–sea ice coupling and global warming. By weakening the WBF process, CESM1 simulated liquid cloud fractions increased, especially in winter and spring. The cloud response resulted in increased downwelling longwave flux and decreased shortwave flux at the surface. Arctic clouds and radiation in simulations with reduced WBF efficiency show a better agreement with satellite retrievals. In addition, both coupling and global warming amplify the cloud response to a less efficient WBF process, due to increased relative humidity and enhanced evaporation, respectively. As a response, the sea ice tends to melt over the North Atlantic Ocean, most likely caused by a positive feedback process between clouds, radiation and sea ice during non-summer months. These results improve our understanding of large-scale effects of the WBF process and the role of cloud liquid water in the Arctic climate system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3373-3394
Number of pages22
JournalClimate Dynamics
Volume56
Issue number9-10
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2021

Keywords

  • Arctic sea ice
  • Cloud and radiation
  • Community earth system model
  • Wegener–Bergeron–Findeisen process

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science

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