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Does model calibration reduce uncertainty in climate projections?

Tett, S. F. B., Gregory, J. M., Freychet, N., Cartis, C., Mineter, M. J. and Roberts, L. (2022) Does model calibration reduce uncertainty in climate projections? Journal of Climate, 35 (8). pp. 2585-2602. ISSN 1520-0442

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1175/JCLI-D-21-0434.1


Uncertainty in climate projections is large as shown by the likely uncertainty ranges in Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity (ECS) of 2.5-4K and in the Transient Climate Response (TCR) of 1.4-2.2K. Uncertainty in model projections could arise from the way in which unresolved processes are represented, the parameter values used, or the targets for model calibration. We show that, in two climate model ensembles which were objectively calibrated to minimise differences from observed large scale atmospheric climatology, uncertainties in ECS and TCR are about two to six times smaller than in the CMIP5 or CMIP6 multi-model ensemble. We also find that projected uncertainties in surface temperature, precipitation and annual extremes are relatively small. Residual uncertainty largely arises from unconstrained sea-ice feedbacks. The 20+ year old HadAM3 standard model configuration simulates observed hemispheric scale observations and pre-industrial surface temperatures about as well as the median CMIP5 and CMIP6 ensembles while the optimised configurations simulates these better than almost all the CMIP5 and CMIP6 models. Hemispheric scale observations and pre-industrial temperatures are not systematically better simulated in CMIP6 than in CMIP5 though the CMIP6 ensemble seems to better simulate patterns of large-scale observations than the CMIP5 ensemble and the optimised HadAM3 configurations. Our results suggest that most CMIP models could be improved in their simulation of large scale observations by systematic calibration. However, the uncertainty in climate projections (for a given scenario) likely largely arises from the choice of parametrisation schemes for unresolved processes (“structural uncertainty”), with different tuning targets another possible contributor.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > NCAS
ID Code:102092
Publisher:American Meteorological Society


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