Radiative impacts of cloud heterogeneity and overlap in an atmospheric General Circulation Model
1NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, USA
2University Space Research Association, Columbia, MD, USA
3Seoul National University, Seoul, South Korea
Abstract. The radiative impacts of introducing horizontal heterogeneity of layer cloud condensate, and vertical overlap of condensate and cloud fraction are examined with the aid of a new radiation package operating in the GEOS-5 Atmospheric General Circulation Model. The impacts are examined in terms of diagnostic top-of-the atmosphere shortwave (SW) and longwave (LW) cloud radiative effect (CRE) calculations for a range of assumptions and parameter specifications about the overlap. The investigation is conducted for two distinct cloud schemes, the one that comes with the standard GEOS-5 distribution, and another which has been recently used experimentally for its enhanced cloud microphysical capabilities; both are coupled to a cloud generator allowing arbitrary cloud overlap specification. We find that cloud overlap radiative impacts are significantly stronger for the operational cloud scheme for which a change of cloud fraction overlap from maximum-random to generalized results to global changes of SW and LW CRE of ∼4 W m−2, and zonal changes of up to ∼10 W m−2. This is because of fewer occurrences compared to the other scheme of large layer cloud fractions and of multi-layer situations with large numbers of atmospheric layers being simultaneously cloudy, conditions that make overlap details more important. The impact on CRE of the details of condensate distribution overlap is much weaker. Once generalized overlap is adopted, both cloud schemes are only modestly sensitive to the exact values of the overlap parameters. We also find that if one of the CRE components is overestimated and the other underestimated, both cannot be driven towards observed values by adjustments to cloud condensate heterogeneity and overlap alone.