Evaluating climate model performance with various parameter sets using observations over the recent past 1Université catholique de Louvain, Earth and Life Institute, Georges Lemaître Centre for Earth and Climate Research (TECLIM), Chemin du Cyclotron, 2 bte L7.01.11, 1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium
2Laboratoire de Physique Atmosphérique et Planétaire, Université de Liège, Allée du 6 août, 17, Bâtiment B5c, 4000 Liège, Belgium
3Earth System Science & Departement Geografie, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Pleinlaan, 2, 1050 Brussels, Belgium
Received: 06 April 2010 – Published in Clim. Past Discuss.: 29 April 2010 Abstract. Many sources of uncertainty limit the accuracy of climate projections. Among
them, we focus here on the parameter uncertainty, i.e. the imperfect
knowledge of the values of many physical parameters in a climate model.
Therefore, we use LOVECLIM, a global three-dimensional Earth system model of
intermediate complexity and vary several parameters within a range based on
the expert judgement of model developers. Nine climatic parameter sets and
three carbon cycle parameter sets are selected because they yield
present-day climate simulations coherent with observations and they cover a
wide range of climate responses to doubled atmospheric CO2
concentration and freshwater flux perturbation in the North Atlantic.
Moreover, they also lead to a large range of atmospheric CO2
concentrations in response to prescribed emissions. Consequently, we have
at our disposal 27 alternative versions of LOVECLIM (each corresponding to
one parameter set) that provide very different responses to some climate
forcings. The 27 model versions are then used to illustrate the range of
responses provided over the recent past, to compare the time evolution of
climate variables over the time interval for which they are available (the
last few decades up to more than one century) and to identify the outliers
and the "best" versions over that particular time span. For example, between
1979 and 2005, the simulated global annual mean surface temperature increase
ranges from 0.24 °C to 0.64 °C, while the simulated increase in
atmospheric CO2 concentration varies between 40 and 50 ppmv.
Measurements over the same period indicate an increase in global annual mean
surface temperature of 0.45 °C (Brohan et al., 2006) and an increase in
atmospheric CO2 concentration of 44 ppmv (Enting et al., 1994;
GLOBALVIEW-CO2, 2006). Only a few parameter sets yield simulations that
reproduce the observed key variables of the climate system over the last
decades. Furthermore, our results show that the model response, including
its ocean component, is strongly influenced by the model sensitivity to an
increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration but much less by its
sensitivity to freshwater flux in the North Atlantic. They also highlight
weaknesses of the model, in particular its large ocean heat uptake.
Revised: 19 April 2011 – Accepted: 20 April 2011 – Published: 17 May 2011
Citation: Loutre, M. F., Mouchet, A., Fichefet, T., Goosse, H., Goelzer, H., and Huybrechts, P.: Evaluating climate model performance with various parameter sets using observations over the recent past, Clim. Past, 7, 511-526, doi:10.5194/cp-7-511-2011, 2011.