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The Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation in twentieth century climate simulations: uneven progress from CMIP3 to CMIP5

Abstract

Decadal variability in the climate system from the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) is one of the major sources of variability at this temporal scale that climate models must properly incorporate because of its climate impact. The current analysis of historical simulations of the twentieth century climate from models participating in the CMIP3 and CMIP5 projects assesses how these models portray the observed spatiotemporal features of the sea surface temperature (SST) and precipitation anomalies associated with the AMO. A short sample of the models is analyzed in detail by using all ensembles available of the models CCSM3, GFDL-CM2.1, UKMO-HadCM3, and ECHAM5/MPI-OM from the CMIP3 project, and the models CCSM4, GFDL-CM3, UKMO-HadGEM2-ES, and MPI-ESM-LR from the CMIP5 project. The structure and evolution of the SST anomalies of the AMO have not progressed consistently from the CMIP3 to the CMIP5 models. While the characteristic period of the AMO (smoothed with a binomial filter applied fifty times) is underestimated by the three of the models, the e-folding time of the autocorrelations shows that all models underestimate the 44-year value from observations by almost 50 %. Variability of the AMO in the 10–20/70–80 year ranges is overestimated/underestimated in the models and the variability in the 10–20 year range increases in three of the models from the CMIP3 to the CMIP5 versions. Spatial variability and correlation of the AMO regressed precipitation and SST anomalies in summer and fall indicate that models are not up to the task of simulating the AMO impact on the hydroclimate over the neighboring continents. This is in spite of the fact that the spatial variability and correlations in the SST anomalies improve from CMIP3 to CMIP5 versions in two of the models. However, a multi-model mean from a sample of 14 models whose first ensemble was analyzed indicated there were no improvements in the structure of the SST anomalies of the AMO or associated regional precipitation anomalies in summer and fall from CMIP3 to CMIP5 projects.

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Notes

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    The region is data-sparse but not data-void, and the quality of the data when compared with in situ data is reasonable according to an analysis made by Hughes et al. (2009).

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Acknowledgments

The authors acknowledge the support of NOAA Climate Program Office Modeling, Analysis, Predictions and Projections (MAPP) Program as part of the CMIP5 Task Force. Work was supported under grant # NA10OAR4310158. In the same way, we wish to acknowledge support from NSF award AGS1132259. We also want to acknowledge the World Climate Research Programme’s Working Group on Coupled Modeling, which is responsible for CMIP, and we thank the climate modeling groups (listed in the Data section) for producing and making available their model output. For CMIP the US Department of Energy’s Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison provides coordinating support and led development of software infrastructure in partnership with the Global Organization for Earth System Science Portals. We acknowledge the modeling groups, the Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison (PCMDI) and the WCRP’s Working Group on Coupled Modelling (WGCM) for their roles in making available the WCRP CMIP3 multi-model dataset. Support of this dataset is provided by the Office of Science, US Department of Energy.

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Correspondence to Alfredo Ruiz-Barradas.

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Ruiz-Barradas, A., Nigam, S. & Kavvada, A. The Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation in twentieth century climate simulations: uneven progress from CMIP3 to CMIP5. Clim Dyn 41, 3301–3315 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00382-013-1810-0

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Keywords

  • Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation
  • IPCC
  • CMIP3
  • CMIP5
  • Hydroclimate
  • AMO in CMIP3 and CMIP5 projects
  • NCAR
  • GFDL
  • UKMO
  • MPI