, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 357-375
Date: 25 Apr 2006

Frequency distributions of transient regional climate change from perturbed physics ensembles of general circulation model simulations

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Large ensembles of coupled atmosphere–ocean general circulation model (AOGCM) simulations are required to explore modelling uncertainty and make probabilistic predictions of future transient climate change at regional scales. These are not yet computationally feasible so we have developed a technique to emulate the response of such an ensemble by scaling equilibrium patterns of climate change derived from much cheaper “slab” model ensembles in which the atmospheric component of an AOGCM is coupled to a mixed-layer ocean. Climate feedback parameters are diagnosed for each member of a slab model ensemble and used to drive an energy balance model (EBM) to predict the time-dependent response of global surface temperature expected for different combinations of uncertain AOGCM parameters affecting atmospheric, land and sea-ice processes. The EBM projections are then used to scale normalised patterns of change derived for each slab member, and hence emulate the response of the relevant atmospheric model version when coupled to a dynamic ocean, in response to a 1% per annum increase in CO2. The emulated responses are validated by comparison with predictions from a 17 member ensemble of AOGCM simulations, constructed from variants of HadCM3 using the same parameter combinations as 17 members of the slab model ensemble. Cross-validation permits estimation of the spatial and temporal dependence of emulation error, and also allows estimation of a correction field to correct discrepancies between the scaled equilibrium patterns and the transient response, reducing the emulation error. Emulated transient responses and their associated errors are obtained from the slab ensemble for 129 pseudo-HadCM3 versions containing multiple atmospheric parameter perturbations. These are combined to produce regional frequency distributions for the transient response of annual surface temperature change and boreal winter precipitation change. The technique can be extended to any surface climate variable demonstrating a scaleable, approximately linear response to forcing.