Climate Dynamics

, Volume 41, Issue 7, pp 2061–2080

Current and future atmospheric circulation at 500 hPa over Greenland simulated by the CMIP3 and CMIP5 global models


    • Laboratory of Climatology and TopoclimatologyUniversity of Liège
  • Xavier Fettweis
    • Laboratory of Climatology and TopoclimatologyUniversity of Liège
  • Charlotte Lang
    • Laboratory of Climatology and TopoclimatologyUniversity of Liège
  • Michel Erpicum
    • Laboratory of Climatology and TopoclimatologyUniversity of Liège

DOI: 10.1007/s00382-012-1538-2

Cite this article as:
Belleflamme, A., Fettweis, X., Lang, C. et al. Clim Dyn (2013) 41: 2061. doi:10.1007/s00382-012-1538-2


The Greenland ice sheet is projected to be strongly affected by global warming. These projections are either issued from downscaling methods (such as Regional Climate Models) or they come directly from General Circulation Models (GCMs). In this context, it is necessary to evaluate the accuracy of the daily atmospheric circulation simulated by the GCMs, since it is used as forcing for downscaling methods. Thus, we use an automatic circulation type classification based on two indices (Euclidean distance and Spearman rank correlation using the daily 500 hPa geopotential height) to evaluate the ability of the GCMs from both CMIP3 and CMIP5 databases to simulate the main circulation types over Greenland during summer. For each circulation type, the GCMs are compared to three reanalysis datasets on the basis of their frequency and persistence differences. For the current climate (1961–1990), we show that most of the GCMs do not reproduce the expected frequency and the persistence of the circulation types and that they simulate poorly the observed daily variability of the general circulation. Only a few GCMs can be used as reliable forcings for downscaling methods over Greenland. Finally, when applying the same approach to the future projections of the GCMs, no significant change in the atmospheric circulation over Greenland is detected, besides a generalised increase of the geopotential height due to a uniform warming of the atmosphere.


General circulation models500 hPa geopotential heightGreenlandCirculation type classification

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012