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Results from CMIP5 models (black dots) running simulations of the 1pctCO2 protocol

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posted on 2013-09-30, 00:00 authored by K Caldeira, N P Myhrvold

Figure 5. Results from CMIP5 models (black dots) running simulations of the 1pctCO2 protocol. Projections made by simulations based on curve fits to the abrupt4xCO2 simulations as described in the text: θ1-exp, green; θ2-exp, blue; θ3-exp, brown; θ1D, red. All but θ1-exp provide similar approximations to the temperature results for most of the fully coupled, three-dimensional climate model simulations. Note that the GFDL-ESM2G and GFDL-ESM2M models did not continue with increasing atmospheric CO2 content after reaching twice the preindustrial concentration.


The temperature response of atmosphere–ocean climate models is analyzed based on atmospheric CO2 step-function-change simulations submitted to phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5). From these simulations and a control simulation, we estimate adjusted radiative forcing, the climate feedback parameter, and effective climate system thermal inertia, and we show that these results can be used to predict the temperature response to time-varying CO2 concentrations. We evaluate several kinds of simple mathematical models for the CMIP5 simulation results, including single- and multiple-exponential models and a one-dimensional ocean-diffusion model. All of these functional forms, except the single-exponential model, can produce curves that fit most CMIP5 results quite well for both continuous and step-function CO2-change pathways. Choice of model for any particular application would include consideration of factors such as the number of free parameters to be constrained and the conception of the underlying mechanistic model. Smooth curve fits to the CMIP5 simulation results realize approximately half (range 38%–61%) of equilibrium warming within the first decade after a CO2 concentration increase, but approximately one quarter (range 14%–40%) of equilibrium warming occurs more than a century after the CO2 increase. Following an instantaneous quadrupling of atmospheric CO2, fits to four of the 20 simulation results reach 4 ° C of warming within the first decade, but fits to three of the 20 simulation results require more than a century to reach 4 ° C. These results indicate the need to reduce uncertainty in the temporal response of climate models and to consider this uncertainty when evaluating the risks posed by climate change.