Sea Surface Temperature and Large-Scale Circulation Influences on Tropical Greenhouse Effect and Cloud Radiative Forcing.
Two independent sets of meteorological reanalyses are used to investigate relationships between the tropical sea surface temperature (SST) and the large-scale vertical motion of the atmosphere for spatial and seasonal variations, as well as for El Niño/La Niña episodes of 1987-88. Supergreenhouse effect (SGE) situations are found to be linked to the occurrence of enhanced large-scale rising motion associated with increasing SST. In regions where the large-scale atmospheric motion is largely decoupled from the local SST due to internal or remote forcings, the SGE occurrence is weak. On seasonal and interannual timescales, such regions are found mainly over equatorial regions of the Indian Ocean and western Pacific, especially for SSTs exceeding 29.5°C. In these regions, the activation of feedback processes that regulate the ocean temperature is thus likely to be more related to the large-scale remote processes, such as those that govern the monsoon circulations and the low-frequency variability of the atmosphere, than to the local SST change.The relationships among SST, clouds, and cloud radiative forcing inferred from satellite observations are also investigated. In large-scale subsidence regimes, regardless of the SST range, the cloudiness, the cloud optical thickness, and the shortwave cloud forcing decrease with increasing SST. In convective regions maintained by the large-scale circulation, the strong dependence of both the longwave (LW) and shortwave (SW) cloud forcing on SST mainly results from changes in the large-scale vertical motion accompanying the SST changes. Indeed, for a given large-scale rising motion, the cloud optical thickness decreases with SST, and the SW cloud forcing remains essentially unaffected by SST changes. However, the LW cloud forcing still increases with SST because the detrainment height of deep convection, and thus the cloud-top altitude, tend to increase with SST. The dependence of the net cloud radiative forcing on SST may thus provide a larger positive climate feedback when the ocean warming is associated with weak large-scale circulation changes than during seasonal or El Niño variations.