Somerville, R. C. J., and S. F. Iacobellis, 1999: Single-column models, ARM observations, and GCM cloud-radiation schemes. Phys. Chem. Earth (B), 24, No. 6, 733-740.



Among the most serious sources of uncertainty in current general circulation models (GCMs) is the treatment of clouds and cloud-radiation interactions. We have used a single-column model (SCM) diagnostically to evaluate parameterizations against observations from the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Program. We find that schemes with explicit cloud water budgets and interactive radiative properties are potentially capable of matching observational data closely. In our SCM, using an interactive cloud droplet radius decreases the cloud optical thickness and cloud infrared emittance of high clouds, which acts to increase the downwelling surface shortwave flux and the outgoing longwave radiation. However, it is difficult to evaluate the realism of the vertical distribution of model-produced cloud extinction, cloud emittance, cloud liquid water content and effective cloud droplet radius until high-quality observations of these quantities become more widely available. We also find that in the SCM, cloud parameterizations often underestimate the observed cloud amount, and that ARM observations indicate the presence of clouds while the corresponding maximum relative humidity is less than 80%. This implies that the underlying concept of a critical gridpoint relative humidity of about 80% for cloud formation, as used in many GCM cloud parameterizations, may need to be re-examined.