Biological and Environmental Research - Earth and Environmental System Sciences
Earth and Environmental System Modeling

An Efficient Method for Discerning Climate-Relevant Sensitivities in Atmospheric General Circulation Models

Wednesday, May 14, 2014 - 07:00
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In this study we explored the feasibility of an experimentation strategy for investigating sensitivities in fast components of atmospheric general circulation models. The basic idea is to replace the traditional serial-in-time long-term climate integrations by representative ensembles of shorter simulations. The key advantage of the proposed method lies in its efficiency: since fewer days of simulation are needed, the computational cost is less, and because individual realizations are independent and can be integrated simultaneously, the new dimension of parallelism can dramatically reduce the turnaround time in benchmark tests, sensitivities studies, and model tuning exercises. The strategy is not appropriate for exploring sensitivity of all model features, but it is very effective in many situations. Two examples are presented using the Community Atmosphere Model version 5. The first example demonstrates that the method is capable of characterizing the model cloud and precipitation sensitivity to timestep length. A nudging technique is also applied to an additional set of simulations to help understand the contribution of physics-dynamics interaction to the detected time step sensitivity. In the second example, multiple empirical parameters related to cloud microphysics and aerosol lifecycle are perturbed simultaneously in order to explore which parameters have the largest impact on the simulated global mean top-of-atmosphere radiation balance. Results show that in both examples, short ensembles are able to correctly reproduce the main signals of model sensitivities revealed by traditional long-term climate simulations for fast processes in the climate system. The efficiency of the ensemble method makes it particularly useful for the development of high-resolution, costly and complex climate models.

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