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David Rodrigues
M. Carmen Alvarez-Castro
Gabriele Messori
Pascal Yiou
Yoann Robin
, and
Davide Faranda


It is of fundamental importance to evaluate the ability of climate models to capture the large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns and, in the context of a rapidly increasing greenhouse forcing, the robustness of the changes simulated in these patterns over time. Here we approach this problem from an innovative point of view based on dynamical systems theory. We characterize the atmospheric circulation over the North Atlantic in the CMIP5 historical simulations (1851–2000) in terms of two instantaneous metrics: local dimension of the attractor and stability of phase-space trajectories. We then use these metrics to compare the models to the Twentieth Century Reanalysis version 2c (20CRv2c) over the same historical period. The comparison suggests that (i) most models capture to some degree the median attractor properties, and models with finer grids generally perform better; (ii) in most models the extremes in the dynamical systems metrics match large-scale patterns similar to those found in the reanalysis; (iii) changes in the attractor properties observed for the ensemble-mean 20CRv2c are artifacts resulting from inhomogeneities in the standard deviation of the ensemble over time; and (iv) the long-term trends in local dimension observed among the 56 members of the 20CR ensemble have the same sign as those observed in the CMIP5 multimodel mean, although the multimodel trend is much weaker.

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