Article

Climate Dynamics

, Volume 28, Issue 7, pp 829-848

Intercomparison of the northern hemisphere winter mid-latitude atmospheric variability of the IPCC models

  • Valerio LucariniAffiliated withDipartimento di Matematica ed Informatica, Università di Camerino Email author 
  • , Sandro CalmantiAffiliated withProgetto Speciale Clima Globale, Ente Nazionale per le Nuove Tecnologie
  • , Alessandro Dell’AquilaAffiliated withProgetto Speciale Clima Globale, Ente Nazionale per le Nuove Tecnologie
  • , Paolo M. RutiAffiliated withProgetto Speciale Clima Globale, Ente Nazionale per le Nuove Tecnologie
  • , Antonio SperanzaAffiliated withDipartimento di Matematica ed Informatica, Università di Camerino

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Abstract

We compare, for the overlapping time frame 1962–2000, the estimate of the northern hemisphere mid-latitude winter atmospheric variability within the available 20th century simulations of 19 global climate models included in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—4th Assessment Report with the NCEP-NCAR and ECMWF reanalyses. We compute the Hayashi spectra of the 500 hPa geopotential height fields and introduce an ad hoc integral measure of the variability observed in the Northern Hemisphere on different spectral sub-domains. The total wave variability is taken as a global scalar metric describing the overall performance of each model, while the total variability pertaining to the eastward propagating baroclinic waves and to the planetary waves are taken as scalar metrics describing the performance of each model phenomenologically in connection with the corresponding specific physical process. Only two very high-resolution global climate models have a good agreement with reanalyses for both the global and the process-oriented metrics. Large biases, in several cases larger than 20%, are found in all the considered metrics between the wave climatologies of most IPCC models and the reanalyses, while the span of the climatologies of the various models is, in all cases, around 50%. In particular, the travelling baroclinic waves are typically overestimated by the climate models, while the planetary waves are usually underestimated, in agreement with what found is past analyses performed on global weather forecasting models. When comparing the results of similar models, it is apparent that in some cases the vertical resolution of the model atmosphere, the adopted ocean model, and the advection schemes seem to be critical in the bulk of the atmospheric variability. The models ensemble obtained by arithmetic averaging of the results of all models is biased with respect to the reanalyses but is comparable to the best five models. Nevertheless, the models results do not cluster around their ensemble mean. This study suggests caveats with respect to the ability of most of the presently available climate models in representing the statistical properties of the global scale atmospheric dynamics of the present climate and, a fortiori, in the perspective of modeling climate change.