Climate modeling through radiative-convective models

Ramanathan, V, Coakley JA.  1978.  Climate modeling through radiative-convective models. Reviews of Geophysics. 16:465-489.


We present a review of the radiative-convective models that have been used in studies pertaining to the earth's climate. After familiarizing the reader with the theoretical background, modeling methodology, and techniques for solving the radiative transfer equation the review focuses on the published model studies concerning global climate and global climate change. Radiative-convective models compute the globally and seasonally averaged surface and atmospheric temperatures. The computed temperatures are in good agreement with the observed temperatures. The models include the important climatic feedback mechanism between surface temperature and H2O amount in the atmosphere. The principal weakness of the current models is their inability to simulate the feedback mechanism between surface temperature and cloud cover. It is shown that the value of the critical lapse rate adopted in radiative-convective models for convective adjustment is significantly larger than the observed globally averaged tropospheric lapse rate. The review also summarizes radiative-convective model results for the sensitivity of surface temperature to perturbations in (1) the concentrations of the major and minor optically active trace constituents, (2) aerosols, and (3) cloud amount. A simple analytical model is presented to demonstrate how the surface temperature in a radiative-convective model responds to perturbations.