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Climate model projections showing a greater rise in global temperature are likely to prove more accurate than those showing a lesser rise, according to a new analysis by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). The findings, published in this week’s issue of Science, could provide a breakthrough in the longstanding quest to narrow the range of global warming expected in coming decades and beyond.
NCAR scientists John Fasullo and Kevin Trenberth, who co-authored the study, reached their conclusions by analyzing how well sophisticated climate models reproduce observed relative humidity in the tropics and subtropics.
Full citation for the article: John T. Fasullo; Kevin E. Trenberth (2012). “A Less Cloudy Future: The Role of Subtropical Subsidence in Climate Sensitivity.” Science 338(6108), 792-794. DOI: 10.1126/science.1227465.
Abstract: An observable constraint on climate sensitivity, based on variations in mid-tropospheric relative humidity (RH) and their impact on clouds, is proposed. We show that the tropics and subtropics are linked by teleconnections that induce seasonal RH variations that relate strongly to albedo (via clouds), and that this covariability is mimicked in a warming climate. A present-day analog for future trends is thus identified whereby the intensity of subtropical dry zones in models associated with the boreal monsoon is strongly linked to projected cloud trends, reflected solar radiation, and model sensitivity. Many models, particularly those with low climate sensitivity, fail to adequately resolve these teleconnections and hence are identifiably biased. Improving model fidelity in matching observed variations provides a viable path forward for better predicting future climate.