Climate Dynamics

, Volume 24, Issue 4, pp 415–433 | Cite as

Uncertainties due to transport-parameter sensitivity in an efficient 3-D ocean-climate model

  • Neil R. EdwardsEmail author
  • Robert Marsh


A simplified climate model is presented which includes a fully 3-D, frictional geostrophic (FG) ocean component but retains an integration efficiency considerably greater than extant climate models with 3-D, primitive-equation ocean representations (20 kyears of integration can be completed in about a day on a PC). The model also includes an Energy and Moisture Balance atmosphere and a dynamic and thermodynamic sea-ice model. Using a semi-random ensemble of 1,000 simulations, we address both the inverse problem of parameter estimation, and the direct problem of quantifying the uncertainty due to mixing and transport parameters. Our results represent a first attempt at tuning a 3-D climate model by a strictly defined procedure, which nevertheless considers the whole of the appropriate parameter space. Model estimates of meridional overturning and Atlantic heat transport are well reproduced, while errors are reduced only moderately by a doubling of resolution. Model parameters are only weakly constrained by data, while strong correlations between mean error and parameter values are mostly found to be an artefact of single-parameter studies, not indicative of global model behaviour. Single-parameter sensitivity studies can therefore be misleading. Given a single, illustrative scenario of CO2 increase and fixing the polynomial coefficients governing the extremely simple radiation parameterisation, the spread of model predictions for global mean warming due solely to the transport parameters is around one degree after 100 years forcing, although in a typical 4,000-year ensemble-member simulation, the peak rate of warming in the deep Pacific occurs 400 years after the onset of the forcing. The corresponding uncertainty in Atlantic overturning after 100 years is around 5 Sv, with a small, but non-negligible, probability of a collapse in the long term.


Antarctic Circumpolar Current Couple Model Intercomparison Project Freshwater Flux Initial Ensemble Deep Temperature 
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.



We thank J.D. Annan for helpful comments on statistical analysis and Jeff Blundell for help in processing ETOPO5 data. The modification to Hibler’s sea ice-area equation was suggested by Masakazu Yoshimori. NRE is supported by the Swiss NCCR-Climate programme. RM acknowledges the support of the UK NERC Earth System Modelling Initiative.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Climate and Environmental PhysicsUniversity of BernSwitzerland
  2. 2.Southampton Oceanography CentreUK

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