In the prediction of climate change, the greatest uncertainty lies in the representation of clouds. Ice clouds are particularly challenging, and to date there is no accepted method for measuring the smaller ice crystals (D < 60 μm). This study examines the sensitivity of a global climate model to different assumptions regarding the number concentrations of small ice crystals when they are allowed to affect ice sedimentation rates. When their concentrations are relatively high, the GCM predicts a 12% increase in cloud ice amount and a 5.5% increase in cirrus cloud coverage globally. This produces a net cloud forcing of -5 W m-2 in the tropics and warms the upper tropical troposphere over 3°C. Ice crystal concentration differences assumed were modest in comparison to corresponding measurement uncertainties, revealing a potentially large source of uncertainty in the prediction of global climate.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)