Critical Southern Ocean climate model biases traced to atmospheric model cloud errors

The Southern Ocean is a pivotal component of the global climate system yet it is poorly represented in climate models, with significant biases in upper-ocean temperatures, clouds and winds. Combining Atmospheric and Coupled Model Inter-comparison Project (AMIP5/CMIP5) simulations, with observations and equilibrium heat budget theory, we show that across the CMIP5 ensemble variations in sea surface temperature biases in the 40–60°S Southern Ocean are primarily caused by AMIP5 atmospheric model net surface flux bias variations, linked to cloud-related short-wave errors. Equilibration of the biases involves local coupled sea surface temperature bias feedbacks onto the surface heat flux components. In combination with wind feedbacks, these biases adversely modify upper-ocean thermal structure. Most AMIP5 atmospheric models that exhibit small net heat flux biases appear to achieve this through compensating errors. We demonstrate that targeted developments to cloud-related parameterisations provide a route to better represent the Southern Ocean in climate models and projections.


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Authors: Hyder, Patrick, Edwards, John M., Allan, Richard P., Hewitt, Helene T., Bracegirdle, Thomas J. ORCIDORCID record for Thomas J. Bracegirdle, Gregory, Jonathan M., Wood, Richard A., Meijers, Andrew J.S. ORCIDORCID record for Andrew J.S. Meijers, Mulcahy, Jane, Field, Paul, Furtado, Kalli, Bodas-Salcedo, Alejandro, Williams, Keith D., Copsey, Dan, Josey, Simon A. ORCIDORCID record for Simon A. Josey, Liu, Chunlei, Roberts, Chris D., Sanchez, Claudio, Ridley, Jeff, Thorpe, Livia, Hardiman, Steven C., Mayar, Michael, Berry, David I., Belcher, Stephen E.

On this site: Andrew Meijers, Thomas Bracegirdle
11 September, 2018
Nature Communications / 9
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