Review Article | Published:

Evaluation of CMIP5 palaeo-simulations to improve climate projections

Nature Climate Change volume 5, pages 735743 (2015) | Download Citation

Abstract

Structural differences among models account for much of the uncertainty in projected climate changes, at least until the mid-twenty-first century. Recent observations encompass too limited a range of climate variability to provide a robust test of the ability to simulate climate changes. Past climate changes provide a unique opportunity for out-of-sample evaluation of model performance. Palaeo-evaluation has shown that the large-scale changes seen in twenty-first-century projections, including enhanced land–sea temperature contrast, latitudinal amplification, changes in temperature seasonality and scaling of precipitation with temperature, are likely to be realistic. Although models generally simulate changes in large-scale circulation sufficiently well to shift regional climates in the right direction, they often do not predict the correct magnitude of these changes. Differences in performance are only weakly related to modern-day biases or climate sensitivity, and more sophisticated models are not better at simulating climate changes. Although models correctly capture the broad patterns of climate change, improvements are required to produce reliable regional projections.

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Acknowledgements

This paper is a contribution to the ongoing work on the PMIP. We thank all of the modelling groups who have contributed to the CMIP5 archive. We acknowledge financial support from the Centre for Past Climate Change, University of Reading. G.L. was supported by an international postgraduate research scholarship at Macquarie University. P.J.B. and K.I. were supported by the US National Science Foundation paleoclimatology programme. M.K., P.B. and K.I. acknowledge financial support from Labex L-IPSL.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Centre for Past Climate Change, School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Sciences (SAGES), University of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading RG6 6AH, UK

    • S. P. Harrison
  2. Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, North Ryde, NSW 2109, Australia

    • S. P. Harrison
    •  & G. Li
  3. Department of Geography, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon 97403-1251, USA

    • P. J. Bartlein
    •  & K. Izumi
  4. Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement/Institut Pierre Simon Laplace, unité mixte de recherches CEA-CNRS-UVSQ, Orme des Merisiers, bât 712, 91191 Gif sur Yvette Cedex, France

    • K. Izumi
    • , P. Braconnot
    •  & M. Kageyama
  5. Laboratoire de Meteorologie Dynamique (LMD/IPSL), CNRS/UPMC, Tour 45-55, 3eme etage, 4 place Jussieu, boite 99, 75252 Paris cedex 05, France

    • K. Izumi
  6. BlueSkiesResearch.org.uk, The Old Chapel, Albert Hill, Settle BD24 9HE, UK

    • J. Annan
    •  & J. Hargreaves

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Contributions

S.P.H. planned the paper and was responsible for drafting the text; all authors were involved in analysis and interpretation of the data, and contributed to the final version.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to S. P. Harrison.

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    Supplementary Table 1

    Description of past, present and future simulations.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2649

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