Interpretation of Snow-Climate Feedback as Produced by 17 General Circulation Models

Science  23 Aug 1991:
Vol. 253, Issue 5022, pp. 888-892
DOI: 10.1126/science.253.5022.888


Snow feedback is expected to amplify global warming caused by increasing concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases. The conventional explanation is that a warmer Earth will have less snow cover, resulting in a darker planet that absorbs more solar radiation. An intercomparison of 17 general circulation models, for which perturbations of sea surface temperature were used as a surrogate climate change, suggests that this explanation is overly simplistic. The results instead indicate that additional amplification or moderation may be caused both by cloud interactions and longwave radiation. One measure of this net effect of snow feedback was found to differ markedly among the 17 climate models, ranging from weak negative feedback in some models to strong positive feedback in others.