Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Publication Date
1 July 2022

Blocking Simulations in GFDL GCMs for CMIP5 and CMIP6



The frequency of atmospheric blocking has been largely underestimated by general circulation models (GCMs) participating in the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP). Errors in the onset, persistence, barotropicity, geographical preference, seasonality, intensity, and moving speed of global blocking were diagnosed in 10 Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) GCMs for recent CMIP5 and CMIP6 using a detection approach that combines zonal eddies and the reversal of zonal winds. The blocking frequency, similar at 500 and 250 hPa, is underestimated by 50% in the Atlantic–Europe region during December–February but is overestimated by 60% in the Pacific–North America region during that season and by 70% in the southwest Pacific during July–August. These blocking biases at 500 hPa were investigated in the five CMIP6 models that showed improvements over the CMIP5 versions. The Atlantic–Europe underestimate corresponds to lower instantaneous blocking rates, lower persistent blocking rates, and higher persistent stationary ridge rates; the number of blocks with a duration of 4–5 days is only 40%–65% of that in observations. In contrast, the overestimate consists of excessive blocks with a duration longer than 12 days in the Pacific–North America and up to twice as many 4–6-day events in the southwest Pacific. Simulated December–February blocks up to 12 days in the Pacific–North America region tend to be stronger and to move more slowly than those in observations. Diagnostic sensitivity tests indicated that the zonal mean and zonal eddy components of the mean state play a key role, as replacing each with that of observations substantially reduced many of the outstanding biases in these GCMs.

Reed, Kevin. 2022. “Blocking Simulations In Gfdl Gcms For Cmip5 And Cmip6”. Journal Of Climate 35: 5053-5070. doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-21-0456.1.
Funding Program Area(s)