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Benjamin M. Sanderson, Reto Knutti, and Peter Caldwell

Abstract

The collection of Earth system models available in the archive of phase 5 of CMIP (CMIP5) represents, at least to some degree, a sample of uncertainty of future climate evolution. The presence of duplicated code as well as shared forcing and validation data in the multiple models in the archive raises at least three potential problems: biases in the mean and variance, the overestimation of sample size, and the potential for spurious correlations to emerge in the archive because of model replication. Analytical evidence is presented to demonstrate that the distribution of models in the CMIP5 archive is not consistent with a random sample, and a weighting scheme is proposed to reduce some aspects of model codependency in the ensemble. A method is proposed for selecting diverse and skillful subsets of models in the archive, which could be used for impact studies in cases where physically consistent joint projections of multiple variables (and their temporal and spatial characteristics) are required.

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Benjamin M. Sanderson, Reto Knutti, and Peter Caldwell

Abstract

The diverse set of Earth system models used to conduct the CMIP5 ensemble can partly sample the uncertainties in future climate projections. However, combining those projections is complicated by the fact that models developed by different groups share ideas and code and therefore biases. The authors propose a method for combining model results into single or multivariate distributions that are more robust to the inclusion of models with a large degree of interdependency. This study uses a multivariate metric of present-day climatology to assess both model performance and similarity in two recent model intercomparisons, CMIP3 and CMIP5. Model characteristics can be interpolated and then resampled in a space defined by independent climate properties. A form of weighting can be applied by sampling more densely in the region of the space close to the projected observations, thus taking into account both model performance and interdependence. The choice of the sampling distribution’s parameters is a subjective decision that should reflect the researcher’s prior assumptions as to the acceptability of different model errors.

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Christopher S. Bretherton and Peter M. Caldwell

Abstract

A method is proposed for combining information from several emergent constraints into a probabilistic estimate for a climate sensitivity proxy Y such as equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS). The method is based on fitting a multivariate Gaussian PDF for Y and the emergent constraints using an ensemble of global climate models (GCMs); it can be viewed as a form of multiple linear regression of Y on the constraints. The method accounts for uncertainties in sampling this multidimensional PDF with a small number of models, for observational uncertainties in the constraints, and for overconfidence about the correlation of the constraints with the climate sensitivity. Its general form (Method C) accounts for correlations between the constraints. Method C becomes less robust when some constraints are too strongly related to each other; this can be mitigated using regularization approaches such as ridge regression. An illuminating special case, Method U, neglects any correlations between constraints except through their mutual relationship to the climate proxy; it is more robust to small GCM sample size and is appealingly interpretable. These methods are applied to ECS and the climate feedback parameter using a previously published set of 11 possible emergent constraints derived from climate models in the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP). The ±2σ posterior range of ECS for Method C with no overconfidence adjustment is 4.3 ± 0.7 K. For Method U with a large overconfidence adjustment, it is 4.0 ± 1.3 K. This study adds confidence to past findings that most constraints predict higher climate sensitivity than the CMIP mean.

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Peter M. Caldwell, Yunyan Zhang, and Stephen A. Klein

Abstract

Large-scale conditions over subtropical marine stratocumulus areas are extracted from global climate models (GCMs) participating in phase 3 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP3) and used to drive an atmospheric mixed-layer model (MLM) for current and future climate scenarios. Cloud fraction is computed as the fraction of days where GCM forcings produce a cloudy equilibrium MLM state. This model is a good predictor of cloud fraction and its temporal variations on time scales longer than 1 week but overpredicts liquid water path and entrainment.

GCM cloud fraction compares poorly with observations of mean state, variability, and correlation with estimated inversion strength (EIS). MLM cloud fraction driven by these same GCMs, however, agrees well with observations, suggesting that poor GCM low cloud fraction is due to deficiencies in cloud parameterizations rather than large-scale conditions. However, replacing the various GCM cloud parameterizations with a single physics package (the MLM) does not reduce intermodel spread in low-cloud feedback because the MLM is more sensitive than the GCMs to existent intermodel variations in large-scale forcing. This suggests that improving GCM low cloud physics will not by itself reduce intermodel spread in predicted stratocumulus cloud feedback.

Differences in EIS and EIS change between GCMs are found to be a good predictor of current-climate MLM cloud amount and future cloud change. CMIP3 GCMs predict a robust increase of 0.5–1 K in EIS over the next century, resulting in a 2.3%–4.5% increase in MLM cloudiness. If EIS increases are real, subtropical stratocumulus may damp global warming in a way not captured by the GCMs studied.

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Peter M. Caldwell, Mark D. Zelinka, and Stephen A. Klein

Abstract

Emergent constraints are quantities that are observable from current measurements and have skill predicting future climate. This study explores 19 previously proposed emergent constraints related to equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS; the global-average equilibrium surface temperature response to CO2 doubling). Several constraints are shown to be closely related, emphasizing the importance for careful understanding of proposed constraints. A new method is presented for decomposing correlation between an emergent constraint and ECS into terms related to physical processes and geographical regions. Using this decomposition, one can determine whether the processes and regions explaining correlation with ECS correspond to the physical explanation offered for the constraint. Shortwave cloud feedback is generally found to be the dominant contributor to correlations with ECS because it is the largest source of intermodel spread in ECS. In all cases, correlation results from interaction between a variety of terms, reflecting the complex nature of ECS and the fact that feedback terms and forcing are themselves correlated with each other. For 4 of the 19 constraints, the originally proposed explanation for correlation is borne out by our analysis. These four constraints all predict relatively high climate sensitivity. The credibility of six other constraints is called into question owing to correlation with ECS coming mainly from unexpected sources and/or lack of robustness to changes in ensembles. Another six constraints lack a testable explanation and hence cannot be confirmed. The fact that this study casts doubt upon more constraints than it confirms highlights the need for caution when identifying emergent constraints from small ensembles.

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Hung-Neng S. Chin, Peter M. Caldwell, and David C. Bader

Abstract

The Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model version 3.0.1 is used in both short-range (days) and long-range (years) simulations to explore the California wintertime model wet bias. California is divided into four regions (the coast, central valley, mountains, and Southern California) for validation. Three sets of gridded surface observations are used to evaluate the impact of measurement uncertainty on the model wet bias. Short-range simulations are driven by the North American Regional Reanalysis (NARR) data and designed to test the sensitivity of model physics and grid resolution to the wet bias using eight winter storms chosen from four major types of large-scale conditions: the Pineapple Express, El Niño, La Niña, and synoptic cyclones. Control simulations are conducted with 12-km grid spacing (low resolution) but additional experiments are performed at 2-km (high) resolution to assess the robustness of microphysics and cumulus parameterizations to resolution changes. Additionally, long-range simulations driven by both NARR and general circulation model (GCM) data are performed at low resolution to gauge the impact of the GCM forcing on the model wet bias.

These short- and long-range simulations show that low-resolution runs tend to underpredict precipitation in the coast region and overpredict it elsewhere in California. The sensitivity test of WRF physics in short-range simulations indicates that model precipitation depends most strongly on the microphysics scheme, though convective parameterization is also important, particularly near the coast. In contrast, high-resolution (2 km) simulation increases model precipitation in all regions. As a result, it improves the forecast bias in the coast region while it downgrades the model performance in the other regions. It is also found that the choice of validation dataset has a significant impact on the model wet bias of both short- and long-range simulations. However, this impact in long-range simulations appears to be a secondary contribution as compared to its counterpart from the GCM forcing.

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Peter M. Caldwell, Mark D. Zelinka, Karl E. Taylor, and Kate Marvel

Abstract

This study clarifies the causes of intermodel differences in the global-average temperature response to doubled CO2, commonly known as equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS). The authors begin by noting several issues with the standard approach for decomposing ECS into a sum of forcing and feedback terms. This leads to a derivation of an alternative method based on linearizing the effect of the net feedback. Consistent with previous studies, the new method identifies shortwave cloud feedback as the dominant source of intermodel spread in ECS. This new approach also reveals that covariances between cloud feedback and forcing, between lapse rate and longwave cloud feedbacks, and between albedo and shortwave cloud feedbacks play an important and previously underappreciated role in determining model differences in ECS. Defining feedbacks based on fixed relative rather than specific humidity (as suggested by Held and Shell) reduces the covariances between processes and leads to more straightforward interpretations of results.

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Amy Solomon, Matthew D. Shupe, Ola Persson, Hugh Morrison, Takanobu Yamaguchi, Peter M. Caldwell, and Gijs de Boer

Abstract

In this study, a series of idealized large-eddy simulations is used to understand the relative impact of cloud-top and subcloud-layer sources of moisture on the microphysical–radiative–dynamical feedbacks in an Arctic mixed-phase stratocumulus (AMPS) cloud system. This study focuses on a case derived from observations of a persistent single-layer AMPS cloud deck on 8 April 2008 during the Indirect and Semi-Direct Aerosol Campaign near Barrow, Alaska. Moisture and moist static energy budgets are used to examine the potential impact of ice in mixed-phase clouds, specific humidity inversions coincident with temperature inversions as a source of moisture for the cloud system, and the presence of cloud liquid water above the mixed-layer top. This study demonstrates that AMPS have remarkable insensitivity to changes in moisture source. When the overlying air is dried initially, radiative cooling and turbulent entrainment increase moisture import from the surface layer. When the surface layer is dried initially, the system evolves to a state with reduced mixed-layer water vapor and increased surface-layer moisture, reducing the loss of water through precipitation and entrainment of near-surface air. Only when moisture is reduced both above and below the mixed layer does the AMPS decay without reaching a quasi-equilibrium state. A fundamental finding of this study is that, with or without cloud ice and with or without a specific humidity inversion, the cloud layer eventually extends into the temperature inversion producing a precipitation flux as a source of water into the mixed layer.

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Markus Gross, Hui Wan, Philip J. Rasch, Peter M. Caldwell, David L. Williamson, Daniel Klocke, Christiane Jablonowski, Diana R. Thatcher, Nigel Wood, Mike Cullen, Bob Beare, Martin Willett, Florian Lemarié, Eric Blayo, Sylvie Malardel, Piet Termonia, Almut Gassmann, Peter H. Lauritzen, Hans Johansen, Colin M. Zarzycki, Koichi Sakaguchi, and Ruby Leung

Abstract

Numerical weather, climate, or Earth system models involve the coupling of components. At a broad level, these components can be classified as the resolved fluid dynamics, unresolved fluid dynamical aspects (i.e., those represented by physical parameterizations such as subgrid-scale mixing), and nonfluid dynamical aspects such as radiation and microphysical processes. Typically, each component is developed, at least initially, independently. Once development is mature, the components are coupled to deliver a model of the required complexity. The implementation of the coupling can have a significant impact on the model. As the error associated with each component decreases, the errors introduced by the coupling will eventually dominate. Hence, any improvement in one of the components is unlikely to improve the performance of the overall system. The challenges associated with combining the components to create a coherent model are here termed physics–dynamics coupling. The issue goes beyond the coupling between the parameterizations and the resolved fluid dynamics. This paper highlights recent progress and some of the current challenges. It focuses on three objectives: to illustrate the phenomenology of the coupling problem with references to examples in the literature, to show how the problem can be analyzed, and to create awareness of the issue across the disciplines and specializations. The topics addressed are different ways of advancing full models in time, approaches to understanding the role of the coupling and evaluation of approaches, coupling ocean and atmosphere models, thermodynamic compatibility between model components, and emerging issues such as those that arise as model resolutions increase and/or models use variable resolutions.

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