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

BER 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 25, 2018
Rarely Studied Microbes Associated With Production of Toxic Methylmercury in Great Lakes Estuary
New paper lays foundation for future studies of the role of understudied microorganisms in methylm [more...]

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 for [more...]

Sep 11, 2018
Crown Damage and the Mortality of Tropical Trees
A study on crown damage, growth, and survival in a tropical forest in Borneo The Sciencemore...]

Aug 15, 2018
Warmer Temperatures Lengthen Growing Season, Increase Plants’ Vulnerability to Frost
Experimental warming treatments show how peatland forests may respond to future environmental chang [more...]

Aug 15, 2018
Using Isotopic Measurements to Diagnose Performance of Carbon Dynamics in Terrestrial Vegetation Models
Measurements of carbon-14 in plant tissues help to reduce uncertainties in predictions of an ecosys [more...]