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Diagnosing climate models using traditional climate classifications

PI: Anand Gnanadesikan
Institution: Princeton University
Climate model fidelity frequently diagnosed by looking at mean or root-mean-square errors in fields like temperature and precipitation. However, when it comes to climate properties of interest to biospheric modeling, not all errors are equivalent. A temperature error near the frost line- resulting in a shift of the tree line, for example, may be much more important than one in the middle of a desert or tundra region. Classic climate classifications such as those proposed by Koppen and Holdridge take these differences into account. We find that the climate models run at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab are able to predict the Koppen Climate Zone (Tropical, Arid, Temperate, Cold, Polar) in about 70% of land areas, but only get the subtype (e.g. moist tropical) correct in around 45% of land areas. A particular challenge is the simulation of semiarid climate zones in the temperate latitudes. A slab ocean model is used to evaluate the importance of SSTs in predicting climate zones. Comparisons are made with other models in the AR4.
  • Gnanadesikan, A. and R.J. Stouffer, 2006: Diagnosing atmosphere-ocean general circulation model errors relevant to the terrestrial biosphere using the Köppen climate classification. Geophys. Res. Lett., 33, L22701, doi:10.1029/2006GL028098. Abstract. Full Article. Edit.

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