A simple model perturbed physics study of the simulated climate sensitivity uncertainty and its relation to control climate biases

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In this study the relationship between climate model biases in the control climate and the simulated climate sensitivity are discussed on the basis of perturbed physics ensemble simulations with a globally resolved energy balance (GREB) model. It is illustrated that the uncertainties in the simulated climate sensitivity (estimated by the transient response to CO2 forcing scenarios in the twenty first century or idealized 2 × CO2 forcing experiments) can be conceptually split into two parts: a direct effect of the perturbed physics on the climate sensitivity independent of the control mean climate and an indirect effect of the perturbed physics by changing the control mean climate, which in turn changes the climate sensitivity, as the climate sensitivity itself is depending on the control climate. Biases in the control climate are negatively correlated with the climate sensitivity (colder climates have larger sensitivities), if no physics are perturbed. Perturbed physics that lead to warmer control climate, would in average also lead to larger climate sensitivities, if the control climate is held at the observed reference climate by flux corrections. Thus the effects of control biases and perturbed physics are opposing each other and are partially cancelling each other out. In the GREB model the biases in the control climate are the more important effect for the regional climate sensitivity uncertainties, but for the global mean climate sensitivity both, the biases in the control climate and the perturbed physics, are equally important.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)427-447
Number of pages21
JournalClimate Dynamics
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016


  • Climate dynamics
  • Climate models
  • Climate sensitivity
  • Model errors
  • Perturbed physics
  • Simple climate model

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