29 Nov 2023
 | 29 Nov 2023

Atmospheric cloud-radiative heating in CMIP6 and observations, and its response to surface warming

Aiko Voigt, Stefanie North, Blaz Gasparini, and Seung-Hee Ham

Abstract. Cloud-radiation-interactions are key to Earth's climate and its susceptibility to change. While their impact on Earth's energy budget have been studied in great detail, their effect on atmospheric temperatures have received little attention, despite its importance for the planetary circulation of the atmosphere and hence for regional climate and weather. Here, we present the first systematic assessment of cloud-radiative heating within the atmosphere in 20 CMIP6 models, providing the most comprehensive assessment ever generated and comparing the model simulations to satellite-based estimates of cloud-radiative heating. Our analysis highlights model differences in cloud-radiative heating in both the lower and upper troposphere, as well as uncertainties related to cloud ice processes. Not surprisingly, the response of cloud-radiative heating to surface warming is also uncertain across models. Yet, in the upper troposphere the response is very well predicted by an upward shift of the present-day heating, which we show results from the fact that cloud-radiative heating in the upper troposphere is a function of air temperature and thus decoupled from surface temperature. Our results have three important implications for upper-tropospheric cloud-radiative heating: they establish a new null hypothesis for its response to warming, offer a physics-based prediction of its response to warming based on present-day observations, and emphasize the need for improving its representation in simulations of the present-day climate, possibly by combining the benefits of upcoming km-scale models and satellite observations.

Publisher's note: Copernicus Publications remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims made in the text, published maps, institutional affiliations, or any other geographical representation in this preprint. The responsibility to include appropriate place names lies with the authors.
Aiko Voigt, Stefanie North, Blaz Gasparini, and Seung-Hee Ham

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-2612', Anonymous Referee #1, 06 Feb 2024
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-2612', Anonymous Referee #2, 27 Feb 2024
  • AC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-2612', Aiko Voigt, 28 Apr 2024
Aiko Voigt, Stefanie North, Blaz Gasparini, and Seung-Hee Ham
Aiko Voigt, Stefanie North, Blaz Gasparini, and Seung-Hee Ham


Total article views: 366 (including HTML, PDF, and XML)
HTML PDF XML Total BibTeX EndNote
233 114 19 366 24 16
  • HTML: 233
  • PDF: 114
  • XML: 19
  • Total: 366
  • BibTeX: 24
  • EndNote: 16
Views and downloads (calculated since 29 Nov 2023)
Cumulative views and downloads (calculated since 29 Nov 2023)

Viewed (geographical distribution)

Total article views: 366 (including HTML, PDF, and XML) Thereof 366 with geography defined and 0 with unknown origin.
Country # Views %
  • 1
Latest update: 12 Jun 2024
Short summary
Clouds shape weather and climate by interacting with photons, which changes temperatures within the atmosphere. We assess how well CMIP6 climate models capture this radiative heating by clouds within the atmosphere. While we find large differences among models, especially in cold regions of the atmosphere with abundant ice clouds, we also demonstrate that physical understanding allows us to predict the response of clouds and their radiative heating near the tropopause to climate change.