Monte Carlo climate change forecasts with a global coupled ocean-atmosphere model
- Cite this article as:
- Cubasch, U., Santer, B.D., Hellbach, A. et al. Climate Dynamics (1994) 10: 1. doi:10.1007/BF00210333
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Four time-dependent greenhouse warming experiments were performed with the same global coupled atmosphere-ocean model, but with each simulation using initial conditions from different “snapshots” of the control run climate. The radiative forcing — the increase in equivalent CO2 concentrations from 1985–2035 specified in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scenario A — was identical in all four 50-year integrations. This approach to climate change experiments is called the Monte Carlo technique and is analogous to a similar experimental set-up used in the field of extended range weather forecasting. Despite the limitation of a very small sample size, this approach enables the estimation of both a mean response and the “between-experiment” variability, information which is not available from a single integration. The use of multiple realizations provides insights into the stability of the response, both spatially, seasonally and in terms of different climate variables. The results indicate that the time evolution of the global mean warming signal is strongly dependent on the initial state of the climate system. While the individual members of the ensemble show considerable variation in the pattern and amplitude of near-surface temperature change after 50 years, the ensemble mean climate change pattern closely resembles that obtained in a 100-year integration performed with the same model. In global mean terms, the climate change signals for near surface temperature, the hydrological cycle and sea level significantly exceed the variability among the members of the ensemble. Due to the high internal variability of the modelled climate system, the estimated detection time of the global mean temperature change signal is uncertain by at least one decade. While the ensemble mean surface temperature and sea level fields show regionally significant responses to greenhouse-gas forcing, it is not possible to identify a significant response in the precipitation and soil moisture fields, variables which are spatially noisy and characterized by large variability between the individual integrations.