Evolution and trend of the outgoing longwave radiation spectrum

Yi Huang, V. Ramaswamy

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29 Scopus citations


The variability and change occurring in the outgoing longwave radiation (OLR) spectrum are investigated by using simulations performed with a Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory coupled atmosphere-ocean-land general circulation model. First, the variability in unforced climate (natural variability) is simulated. Then, the change of OLR spectrum due to forced changes in climate is analyzed for a continuous 25-yr time series and for the difference between two time periods (1860s and 2000s). Spectrally resolved radiances have more pronounced and complex changes than broadband fluxes. In some spectral regions, the radiance change is dominated by just one controlling factor (e.g., the window region and CO2 band center radiances are controlled by surface and stratospheric temperatures, respectively) and well exceeds the natural variability. In some other spectral bands, the radiance change is influenced by multiple and often competing factors (e.g., the water vapor band radiance is influenced by both water vapor concentration and temperature) and, although still detectable against natural variability at certain frequencies, demands stringent requirements (drift less than 0.1 K decade-1 at spectral resolution no less than 1 cm-1) of observational platforms. The difference between clear-sky and all-sky radiances in the forced climate problem offers a measure of the change in the cloud radiative effect, but with a substantive dependence on the temperature lapse rate change. These results demonstrate that accurate and continuous observations of the OLR spectrum provide an advantageous means for monitoring the changes in the climate system and a stringent means for validating climate models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4637-4651
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number17
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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