The increase of climate sensitivity to rising greenhouse gas concentrations in the coupled model intercomparison project phase 6 (CMIP6) Earth system models (ESMs) compared to CMIP5 ESMs is primarily attributed to a larger extratropical cloud response to climate change, referred to as cloud feedback. The ratio of supercooled liquid cloud water relative to all cloud water, termed liquid phase ratio (LPR), which has also notably increased in many recent ESMs, is thought to be a primary driver of the extratropical cloud feedback increase. Unlike the preponderance of previous studies that compare native model LPR directly with observations, here we evaluate LPR over three ESM generations against Cloud–Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO) using an instrument simulator approach, which mimics instrument limitations and uses consistent cloud definitions and resolutions. We find that current coupled model intercomparison project (CMIP) ESMs collectively simulate greater LPR than previous CMIP generations and overestimate LPR compared to observations, contrary to previous findings, likely driven by past inconsistent comparisons of ESM outputs with CALIPSO observations. We further show that greater LPR in ESM present-day climate is unexpectedly correlated with a smaller extratropical cloud feedback, attributable to a decrease of cloud amountexceeding the increase of cloud optical depth. Finally, our results suggest that improving constraints on model LPR using our evaluation framework would likely reduce the spread in CMIP6 climate sensitivities, owing to its effect on extratropical cloud feedback from supercooled clouds.

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