Energy Tranports in Warmer Climates

Dargan Frierson
University of Washington

One of the most expected consequences of global warming is a large increase in the humidity content of air. Global mean water vapor content is expected to increase by nearly 25% with a 3 K global temperature increase. Water vapor has a variety of effects on the climate, and the full implications of this predicted moistening are still being uncovered.

In this talk we discuss the effect of increased moisture on the poleward transport of energy by the climate system. In the midlatitudes, humid air is drawn poleward in eddies where the vapor condenses in a blast of latent heat release. This moisture transport currently accounts for around 50% of the poleward energy transport on Earth. With increased humidity, one would expect this to process also to increase in strength. How does the climate system respond? We investigate this phenomenon in climate models ranging from simple to predictive, and interpret the results with variations on the classic one-dimensional energy balance model.

Back to Workshop I: Equation Hierarchies for Climate Modeling