Evaluating the Accuracy of Climate Change Pattern Emulation for Low Warming Targets

TitleEvaluating the Accuracy of Climate Change Pattern Emulation for Low Warming Targets
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Volume13
Number5
Pages055006
Date Published05/2018
Abstract / Summary

Global climate policy is increasingly debating the value of very low warming targets, yet not many experiments conducted with global climate models in their fully coupled versions are currently available to help inform studies of the corresponding impacts. This raises the question whether a map of warming or precipitation change in a world 1.5 °C warmer than preindustrial can be emulated from existing simulations that reach higher warming targets, or whether entirely new simulations are required. Here we show that also for this type of low warming in strong mitigation scenarios, climate change signals are quite linear as a function of global temperature. Therefore, emulation techniques amounting to linear rescaling on the basis of global temperature change ratios (like simple pattern scaling) provide a viable way forward. The errors introduced are small relative to the spread in the forced response to a given scenario that we can assess from a multi-model ensemble. They are also small relative to the noise introduced into the estimates of the forced response by internal variability within a single model, which we can assess from either control simulations or initial condition ensembles. Challenges arise when scaling inadvertently reduces the inter-model spread or suppresses the internal variability, both important sources of uncertainty for impact assessment, or when the scenarios have very different characteristics in the composition of the forcings. Taking advantage of an available suite of coupled model simulations under low-warming and intermediate scenarios, we evaluate the accuracy of these emulation techniques and show that they are unlikely to represent a substantial contribution to the total uncertainty.

URLhttp://dx.doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aabef2
DOI10.1088/1748-9326/aabef2
Journal: Environmental Research Letters
Year of Publication: 2018
Volume: 13
Number: 5
Pages: 055006
Date Published: 05/2018

Global climate policy is increasingly debating the value of very low warming targets, yet not many experiments conducted with global climate models in their fully coupled versions are currently available to help inform studies of the corresponding impacts. This raises the question whether a map of warming or precipitation change in a world 1.5 °C warmer than preindustrial can be emulated from existing simulations that reach higher warming targets, or whether entirely new simulations are required. Here we show that also for this type of low warming in strong mitigation scenarios, climate change signals are quite linear as a function of global temperature. Therefore, emulation techniques amounting to linear rescaling on the basis of global temperature change ratios (like simple pattern scaling) provide a viable way forward. The errors introduced are small relative to the spread in the forced response to a given scenario that we can assess from a multi-model ensemble. They are also small relative to the noise introduced into the estimates of the forced response by internal variability within a single model, which we can assess from either control simulations or initial condition ensembles. Challenges arise when scaling inadvertently reduces the inter-model spread or suppresses the internal variability, both important sources of uncertainty for impact assessment, or when the scenarios have very different characteristics in the composition of the forcings. Taking advantage of an available suite of coupled model simulations under low-warming and intermediate scenarios, we evaluate the accuracy of these emulation techniques and show that they are unlikely to represent a substantial contribution to the total uncertainty.

DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/aabef2
Citation:
Tebaldi, C, and R Knutti.  2018.  "Evaluating the Accuracy of Climate Change Pattern Emulation for Low Warming Targets."  Environmental Research Letters 13(5): 055006.  https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aabef2.