Climate Dynamics

, Volume 30, Issue 4, pp 371–390 | Cite as

The energy cycle in atmospheric models



The energy cycle characterizes basic aspects of the physical behaviour of the climate system. Terms in the energy cycle involve first and second order climate statistics (means, variances, covariances) and the intercomparison of energetic quantities offers physically motivated “second order” insight into model and system behaviour. The energy cycle components of 12 models participating in AMIP2 are calculated, intercompared and assessed against results based on NCEP and ERA reanalyses. In general, models simulate a modestly too vigorous energy cycle and the contributions to and reasons for this are investigated. The results suggest that excessive generation of zonal available potential energy is an important driver of the overactive energy cycle through “generation push” while excessive dissipation of eddy kinetic energy in models is implicated through “dissipation pull‘’. The study shows that “ensemble model” results are best or among the best in the comparison of energy cycle quantities with reanalysis-based values. Thus ensemble approaches are apparently “best” not only for the simulation of 1st order climate statistics as in Lambert and Boer (Clim Dyn 17:83–106, 2001) but also for the higher order climate quantities entering the energy cycle.



The model data was obtained from PCMDI as part of the AMIP2 intercomparison project. We appreciate the comments of J. Fyfe and G. Flato on an earlier version of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Canadian Crown Copyright 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis, Environment CanadaUniversity of VictoriaVictoriaCanada

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