Abstract Studies of the climate in the past potentially provide a constraint on the uncertainty of climate sensitivity, but previous studies warn against a simple scaling to the future. Climate sensitivity is determined by a number of feedback processes, and they may vary according to climate states and forcings. In this study, the similarities and differences in feedbacks for CO2 doubling, a Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), and LGM greenhouse gas (GHG) forcing experiments are investigated using an atmospheric general circulation model coupled to a slab ocean model. After computing the radiative forcing, the individual feedback strengths of water vapor, lapse-rate, albedo, and cloud feedbacks are evaluated explicitly. For this particular model, the difference in the climate sensitivity between the experiments is attributed to the shortwave cloud feedback, in which there is a tendency for it to become weaker or even negative in cooling experiments. No significant difference is found in the water vapor feedback between warming and cooling experiments by GHGs. The weaker positive water vapor feedback in the LGM experiment resulting from a relatively weaker tropical forcing is compensated for by the stronger positive lapse-rate feedback resulting from a relatively stronger extratropical forcing. A hypothesis is proposed that explains the asymmetric cloud response between the warming and cooling experiments associated with a displacement of the region of mixed-phase clouds. The difference in the total feedback strength between the experiments is, however, relatively small compared to the current intermodel spread, and does not necessarily preclude the use of LGM climate as a future constraint.

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