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Observational Constraints on Southern Ocean Cloud-phase Feedback
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  • Casey James Wall,
  • Trude Storelvmo,
  • Joel R. Norris,
  • Ivy Tan
Casey James Wall
Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Trude Storelvmo
University of Oslo
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Joel R. Norris
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Ivy Tan
McGill University
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Shortwave radiative feedbacks from Southern Ocean clouds are a major source of uncertainty in climate projections. Much of this uncertainty arises from changes in cloud scattering properties and lifetimes that are caused by changes in cloud thermodynamic phase. Here we use satellite observations to infer the scattering component of the cloud-phase feedback mechanism and determine its relative importance by comparing it with an estimate of the overall temperature-driven cloud feedback. The overall feedback is dominated by an optical thinning of low-level clouds. In contrast, the scattering component of cloud-phase feedback is an order of magnitude smaller and is primarily confined to free-tropospheric clouds. The small magnitude of this feedback component is a consequence of counteracting changes in albedo from cloud optical thickening and shifts in the scattering direction of cloud particles. These results indicate that shortwave cloud feedback is likely positive over the Southern Ocean and that changes in cloud scattering properties arising from phase changes make a small contribution to the overall feedback. The feedback constraints shift the projected 66% confidence range for the global equilibrium temperature response to doubling atmospheric CO2 by about +0.1 K relative to a recent consensus estimate of cloud feedback.