Climate variability and trend on interannual-to-centennial timescales from global observations and atmosphere-ocean model simulations

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The numerical climate models have provided scientists, policy makers and the general public, crucial information for climate projections since mid-20th century. An international effort to compare and validate the simulations

The numerical climate models have provided scientists, policy makers and the general public, crucial information for climate projections since mid-20th century. An international effort to compare and validate the simulations of all major climate models is organized by the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP), which has gone through several phases since 1995 with CMIP5 being the state of the art. In parallel, an organized effort to consolidate all observational data in the past century culminates in the creation of several "reanalysis" datasets that are considered the closest representation of the true observation. This study compared the climate variability and trend in the climate model simulations and observations on the timescales ranging from interannual to centennial. The analysis focused on the dynamic climate quantity of zonal-mean zonal wind and global atmospheric angular momentum (AAM), and incorporated multiple datasets from reanalysis and the most recent CMIP3 and CMIP5 archives. For the observation, the validation of AAM by the length-of-day (LOD) and the intercomparison of AAM revealed a good agreement among reanalyses on the interannual and the decadal-to-interdecadal timescales, respectively. But the most significant discrepancies among them are in the long-term mean and long-term trend. For the simulations, the CMIP5 models produced a significantly smaller bias and a narrower ensemble spread of the climatology and trend in the 20th century for AAM compared to CMIP3, while CMIP3 and CMIP5 simulations consistently produced a positive trend for the 20th and 21st century. Both CMIP3 and CMIP5 models produced a wide range of the magnitudes of decadal and interdecadal variability of wind component of AAM (MR) compared to observation. The ensemble means of CMIP3 and CMIP5 are not statistically distinguishable for either the 20th- or 21st-century runs. The in-house atmospheric general circulation model (AGCM) simulations forced by the sea surface temperature (SST) taken from the CMIP5 simulations as lower boundary conditions were carried out. The zonal wind and MR in the CMIP5 simulations are well simulated in the AGCM simulations. This confirmed SST as an important mediator in regulating the global atmospheric changes due to GHG effect.