A Simulated Climatology of Spectrally Decomposed Atmospheric Infrared Radiation
Abstract A simulation experiment is conducted to inquire into the mean climate state and likely trends in atmospheric infrared radiation spectra. Upwelling and downwelling spectra at five vertical levels from the surface to the top of the atmosphere (TOA) are rigorously calculated from a climate-model-simulated atmosphere for a 25-yr period. Tracing the longwave radiation flux vertically and spectrally renders a dissection of the greenhouse effect of the earth atmosphere and its change due to climate forcings and feedbacks. The results show that the total outgoing longwave radiation (OLR) at the TOA may be conserved due to 1) compensating temperature and opacity effects and 2) contrasting temperature changes in troposphere and stratosphere. The tightly coupled tropospheric temperature and opacity effects reduce the overall tropospheric contribution to OLR change to be comparable to the overall stratospheric contribution, which suggests that transient OLR change is constrained by the relative strengths of stratospheric and tropospheric temperature changes. The total OLR energy, however, is redistributed across its spectrum. The earliest detectable global climate change signal lies in the CO2 absorption bands, which results from stratospheric cooling and the CO2 opacity effect. This signal can be detected much sooner than surface temperature change and is little affected by achievable instrument accuracy. In contrast, both tropospheric temperature and opacity effects increase downwelling longwave radiation (DLR), which makes DLR a verifiable aspect of global warming. The time it takes to detect surface DLR change roughly equals that of surface temperature change. Measuring downwelling radiances at strong water vapor lines at the tropopause can particularly help monitor stratospheric water vapor.