DOI: 10.1029/2023gl105053 ISSN:

On the Links Between Ice Nucleation, Cloud Phase, and Climate Sensitivity in CESM2

Zachary McGraw, Trude Storelvmo, Lorenzo M. Polvani, Stefan Hofer, Jonah K. Shaw, Andrew Gettelman
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences
  • Geophysics


Ice nucleation in mixed‐phase clouds has been identified as a critical factor in projections of future climate. Here we explore how this process influences climate sensitivity using the Community Earth System Model 2 (CESM2). We find that ice nucleation affects simulated cloud feedbacks over most regions and levels of the troposphere, not just extratropical low clouds. However, with present‐day global mean cloud phase adjusted to replicate satellite retrievals, similar total cloud feedback is attained whether ice nucleation is simulated as aerosol‐sensitive, insensitive, or absent. These model experiments all result in a strongly positive total cloud feedback, as in the default CESM2. A microphysics update from CESM1 to CESM2 had substantially weakened ice nucleation, due partly to a model issue. Our findings indicate that this update reduced global cloud phase bias, with CESM2's high climate sensitivity reflecting improved mixed‐phase cloud representation.

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