The presence of water vapor clouds in the stratosphere produces warming in excess of tropospheric greenhouse warming, via radiative warming in the lower stratosphere. The stratospheric clouds form only in regions of very low temperature and so the warming produced by the clouds is concentrated in polar winter regions. Results from a paleoclimate modeling study that includes idealized, prescribed polar stratospheric clouds (PSCs) show that the clouds cause up to 20°C of warming at high latitude surfaces of the winter hemisphere, with greatest impact in oceanic regions where sea ice is reduced. The modeled temperature response suggests that PSCs may have been a significant climate forcing factor for past time intervals associated with high concentrations of atmopsheric methane. The clouds and associated warming may help to explain long-standing discrepancies between model-produced paleotemperatures and geologic proxy temperature interpreations at high latitudes, a persistent problem in studies of ancient greenhouse climates.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- General Earth and Planetary Sciences