Climate Dynamics

, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 1–38 | Cite as

Climate sensitivity due to increased CO2: experiments with a coupled atmosphere and ocean general circulation model

  • Warren M Washington
  • Gerald A Meehl


A version of the National Center for Atmospheric Research community climate model — a global, spectral (R15) general circulation model — is coupled to a coarse-grid (5° latitude-] longitude, four-layer) ocean general circulation model to study the response of the climate system to increases of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). Three simulations are run: one with an instantaneous doubling of atmospheric CO2 (from 330 to 660 ppm), another with the CO2 concentration starting at 330 ppm and increasing linearly at a rate of 1% per year, and a third with CO2 held constant at 330 pm. Results at the end of 30 years of simulation indicate a globally averaged surface air temperature increase of 1.6° C for the instantaneous doubling case and 0.7°C for the transient forcing case. Inherent characteristics of the coarse-grid ocean model flow sea-surface temperatures (SSTs) in the tropics and higher-than-observed SSTs and reduced sea-ice extent at higher latitudes] produce lower sensitivity in this model after 30 years than in earlier simulations with the same atmosphere coupled to a 50-m, slab-ocean mixed layer. Within the limitations of the simulated meridional overturning, the thermohaline circulation weakens in the coupled model with doubled CO2 as the high-latitude ocean-surface layer warms and freshens and westerly wind stress is decreased. In the transient forcing case with slowly increasing CO2 (30% increase after 30 years), the zonal mean warming of the ocean is most evident in the surface layer near 30°–50° S. Geographical plots of surface air temperature change in the transient case show patterns of regional climate anomalies that differ from those in the instantaneous CO2 doubling case, particularly in the North Atlantic and northern European regions. This suggests that differences in CO2 forcing in the climate system are important in CO2 response in regard to time-dependent climate anomaly regimes. This confirms earlier studies with simple climate models that instantaneous CO2 doubling simulations may not be analogous in all respects to simulations with slowly increasing CO2.


Ocean General Circulation Model Community Climate Model Simple Climate Model Research Community Climate Westerly Wind Stress 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1989 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Warren M Washington
    • 1
  • Gerald A Meehl
    • 1
  1. 1.National Center for Atmospheric ResearchBoulderUSA

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