Large-scale ocean circulation-cloud interactions reduce the pace of transient climate change

Document Type


Date of Original Version



Changes to the large-scale oceanic circulation are thought to slow the pace of transient climate change due, in part, to their influence on radiative feedbacks. Here we evaluate the interactions between CO2-forced perturbations to the large-scale ocean circulation and the radiative cloud feedback in a climate model. Both the change of the ocean circulation and the radiative cloud feedback strongly influence the magnitude and spatial pattern of surface and ocean warming. Changes in the ocean circulation reduce the amount of transient global warming caused by the radiative cloud feedback by helping to maintain low cloud coverage in the face of global warming. The radiative cloud feedback is key in affecting atmospheric meridional heat transport changes and is the dominant radiative feedback mechanism that responds to ocean circulation change. Uncertainty in the simulated ocean circulation changes due to CO2 forcing may contribute a large share of the spread in the radiative cloud feedback among climate models.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Geophysical Research Letters