U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

Searchable Research Highlights

Exploring the Role of Climate Model Quality in Detection and Attribution Studies
Published: August 24, 2009
Posted: August 27, 2009

Observed climate change represents a complex mixture of internally generated noise and responses to external forcing. "Fingerprint" studies, which seek to identify the causes of recent climate change, involve rigorous statistical comparisons of modeled and observed climate change patterns.  DOE sponsored scientists led by PI Santer in 2007 used a suite of 22 Coupled Climate Models in conjunction with satellite observations to indicate unambiguously that changes in atmospheric water vapor have a human "fingerprint." Their 2007 study adopted a democratic "one model, one vote" approach in which each of the 22 models received equal weight in the analysis despite large differences in the ability of the models to simulate important features of present-day climate.  The group calculated a total of 70 different metrics of model performance, repeating their original fingerprint analysis with various sets of "top ten" and "bottom ten" models.  They find that restricting the fingerprint analysis to "better" models does not affect the ability to identify a human-caused fingerprint in satellite records of water vapor changes.  This work links and highlights DOE's expertise in both climate model evaluation and climate change detection and attribution.

Reference: Santer, B. D., K. E. Taylor, P. J. Gleckler, C. Bonfils, T. P. Barnett, D. W. Pierce, T. M. L. Wigley, C. Mears, F. J. Wentz, W. Brüggemann, N. P. Gillett, S. A. Klein, S. Solomon, P. A. Stott, and M. F. Wehner. 2009. "Incorporating Model Quality Information in Climate Change Detection and Attribution Studies," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106(35), 14778–14783. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0901736106. (Reference link)

Contact: Anjuli Bamzai, SC-23.1, (301) 903-0294; Renu Joseph, SC-23.1, 301-903-9237
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Earth and Environmental Systems Modeling

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER


BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

Sep 18, 2018
Vegetation Demographics in Earth System Models: A Review of Progress and Priorities
An assessment of current approaches to including individual plant dynamics in ESMs and the need f [more...]

May 28, 2018
New Method Helps Predict Metabolite Concentrations, Rate Constants, and Enzyme Regulation Within Cells
Researchers use Neurospora crassa, a reliable model organism, to demonstrate new method [more...]

May 04, 2018
Contribution of Environmental Forcings to U.S. Runoff Changes for the Period 1950-2010
Understanding and attributing long-term trends of US runoff changes. < [more...]

May 03, 2018
Vulnerability of Amazon Forests to Storm-Driven Tree Mortality
Wind-related tree mortality is important for reliable prediction of tropical forests and their ef [more...]

Apr 23, 2018
Reconsidering the Role of Aerosols in Deep Convection
A new study shows that observed changes in cloud top height previously attributed to changes in a [more...]