This study assesses the relative importance of time integration error in present-day climate simulations conducted with the atmosphere component of the Energy Exascale Earth System Model version 1 (EAMv1) at 1 horizontal resolution. We show that a factor-of-6 reduction of time step size in all major parts of the model leads to significant changes in the long-term mean climate. Examples of changes in 10-year mean zonal averages include the following:
1. up to 0.5K of warming in the lower troposphere and cooling in the tropical and subtropical upper troposphere,
2. 1 %–10% decreases in relative humidity throughout the troposphere, and
3. 10 %–20% decreases in cloud fraction in the upper troposphere and decreases exceeding 20% in the subtropical
lower troposphere. In terms of the 10-year mean geographical distribution, systematic decreases of 20 %–50% are seen in total cloud cover and cloud radiative effects in the subtropics. These changes imply that the reduction of temporal truncation errors leads to a notable although unsurprising degradation of agreement between the simulated and observed present-day climate; to regain optimal climate fidelity in the absence of those truncation errors, the model would require retuning. A coarsegrained attribution of the time step sensitivities is carried out by shortening time steps used in various components of EAM or by revising the numerical coupling between some processes. Our analysis leads to the finding that the marked decreases in the subtropical low-cloud fraction and total cloud radiative effect are caused not by the step size used for the collectively subcycled turbulence, shallow convection, and stratiform cloud macrophysics and microphysics parameterizations but rather by the step sizes used outside those subcycles. Further analysis suggests that the coupling frequency between the subcycles and the rest of EAM significantly affects the subtropical marine stratocumulus decks, while deep convection has significant impacts on trade cumulus. The step size of the cloud macrophysics and microphysics subcycle itself appears to have a primary impact on cloud fraction in the upper troposphere and also in the midlatitude near-surface layers. Impacts of step sizes used by the dynamical core and the radiation parameterization appear to be relatively small. These results provide useful clues for future studies aiming at understanding and addressing the root causes of sensitivities to time step sizes and process coupling frequencies in EAM.
While this study focuses on EAMv1 and the conclusions are likely model-specific, the presented experimentation strategy has general value for weather and climate model development, as the methodology can help researchers identify and understand sources of time integration error in sophisticated multi-component models.