An assessment of climate feedbacks in coupled ocean-atmosphere models

Brian J. Soden, Isaac M. Held

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

780 Scopus citations


The climate feedbacks in coupled ocean-atmosphere models are compared using a coordinated set of twenty-first-century climate change experiments. Water vapor is found to provide the largest positive feedback in all models and its strength is consistent with that expected from constant relative humidity changes in the water vapor mixing ratio. The feedbacks from clouds and surface albedo are also found to be positive in all models, while the only stabilizing (negative) feedback comes from the temperature response. Large intermodel differences in the lapse rate feedback are observed and shown to be associated with differing regional patterns of surface warming. Consistent with previous studies, it is found that the vertical changes in temperature and water vapor are tightly coupled in all models and, importantly, demonstrate that intermodel differences in the sum of lapse rate and water vapor feedbacks are small. In contrast, intermodel differences in cloud feedback are found to provide the largest source of uncertainty in current predictions of climate sensitivity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3354-3360
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 15 2006
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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