Historical and idealized climate model experiments: an EMIC intercomparison

M. Eby, A. J. Weaver, K. Alexander, K. Zickfeld, A. Abe-Ouchi, A. A. Cimatoribus, E. Crespin, S. S. Drijfhout, N. R. Edwards, A. V. Eliseev, G. Feulner, T. Fichefet, C. E. Forest, H. Goosse, P. B. Holden, F. Joos, M. Kawamiya, D. Kicklighter, H. Kienert, K. MatsumotoI. I. Mokhov, E. Monier, S. M. Olsen, Jens Olaf Pepke Pedersen, M. Perrette, G. Philippon-Berthier, A. Ridgwell, A. Schlosser, T. Schneider von Deimling, G. Shaffer, R. S. Smith, R. Spahni, A. P. Sokolov, M. Steinacher, K. Tachiiri, K. Tokos, M. Yoshimori, N. Zeng, F. Zhao

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Both historical and idealized climate model experiments are performed with a variety of Earth System Models of Intermediate Complexity (EMICs) as part of a community contribution to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report. Historical simulations start at 850 CE and continue through to 2005. The standard simulations include changes in forcing from solar luminosity, Earth's orbital configuration, CO<sub>2</sub>, additional greenhouse gases, land-use, and sulphate and volcanic aerosols. In spite of very different modelled pre-industrial global surface air temperatures, overall 20th century trends in surface air temperature and carbon uptake are reasonably well simulated when compared to observed trends. Land carbon fluxes show much more variation between models than ocean carbon fluxes, and recent land fluxes seem to be underestimated. It is possible that recent modelled climate trends or climate-carbon feedbacks are overestimated resulting in too much land carbon loss or that carbon uptake due to CO<sub>2</sub> and/or nitrogen fertilization is underestimated. <br><br> Several one thousand year long, idealized, 2x and 4x CO<sub>2</sub> experiments are used to quantify standard model characteristics, including transient and equilibrium climate sensitivities, and climate-carbon feedbacks. The values from EMICs generally fall within the range given by General Circulation Models. Seven additional historical simulations, each including a single specified forcing, are used to assess the contributions of different climate forcings to the overall climate and carbon cycle response. The response of surface air temperature is the linear sum of the individual forcings, while the carbon cycle response shows considerable synergy between land-use change and CO<sub>2</sub> forcings for some models. Finally, the preindustrial portions of the last millennium simulations are used to assess historical model carbon-climate feedbacks. Given the specified forcing, there is a tendency for the EMICs to underestimate the drop in surface air temperature and CO<sub>2</sub> between the Medieval Climate Anomaly and the Little Ice Age estimated from paleoclimate reconstructions. This in turn could be a result of errors in the reconstructions of volcanic and/or solar radiative forcing used to drive the models or the incomplete representation of certain processes or variability within the models. Given the datasets used in this study, the models calculate significant land-use emissions over the pre-industrial. This implies that land-use emissions might need to be taken into account, when making estimates of climate-carbon feedbacks from paleoclimate reconstructions.
Original languageEnglish
JournalClimate of the Past Discussions
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)4121-4181
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Earth and Environmental Sciences


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