A simplified moist general circulation model is used to study changes in the meridional transport of moist static energy by the atmosphere as the water vapor content is increased. The key assumptions of the model are gray radiation, with water vapor and other constituents having no effect on radiative transfer, and mixed layer aquaplanet boundary conditions, implying that the atmospheric meridional energy transport balances the net radiation at the top of the atmosphere. These simplifications allow the authors to isolate the effect of moisture on energy transports by baroclinic eddies in a relatively simple setting. The authors investigate the partition of moist static energy transport in the model into dry static energy and latent energy transports as water vapor concentrations are increased, by varying a constant in the Clausius-Clapeyron relation. The increase in the poleward moisture flux is rather precisely compensated by a reduction in the dry static energy flux. These results are interpreted with diffusive energy balance models (EBMs). The simplest of these is an analytic model that has the property of exact invariance of total energy flux as the moisture content is changed, but the assumptions underlying this model are not accurately satisfied by the GCM. A more complex EBM that includes expressions for the diffusivity, length scale, velocity scale, and latitude of maximum baroclinic eddy activity provides a better fit to the GCM's behavior.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Atmospheric Science