Articles | Volume 10, issue 7
Model description paper
06 Jul 2017
Model description paper |  | 06 Jul 2017

The carbon cycle in the Australian Community Climate and Earth System Simulator (ACCESS-ESM1) – Part 1: Model description and pre-industrial simulation

Rachel M. Law, Tilo Ziehn, Richard J. Matear, Andrew Lenton, Matthew A. Chamberlain, Lauren E. Stevens, Ying-Ping Wang, Jhan Srbinovsky, Daohua Bi, Hailin Yan, and Peter F. Vohralik

Abstract. Earth system models (ESMs) that incorporate carbon–climate feedbacks represent the present state of the art in climate modelling. Here, we describe the Australian Community Climate and Earth System Simulator (ACCESS)-ESM1, which comprises atmosphere (UM7.3), land (CABLE), ocean (MOM4p1), and sea-ice (CICE4.1) components with OASIS-MCT coupling, to which ocean and land carbon modules have been added. The land carbon model (as part of CABLE) can optionally include both nitrogen and phosphorous limitation on the land carbon uptake. The ocean carbon model (WOMBAT, added to MOM) simulates the evolution of phosphate, oxygen, dissolved inorganic carbon, alkalinity and iron with one class of phytoplankton and zooplankton. We perform multi-centennial pre-industrial simulations with a fixed atmospheric CO2 concentration and different land carbon model configurations (prescribed or prognostic leaf area index). We evaluate the equilibration of the carbon cycle and present the spatial and temporal variability in key carbon exchanges. Simulating leaf area index results in a slight warming of the atmosphere relative to the prescribed leaf area index case. Seasonal and interannual variations in land carbon exchange are sensitive to whether leaf area index is simulated, with interannual variations driven by variability in precipitation and temperature. We find that the response of the ocean carbon cycle shows reasonable agreement with observations. While our model overestimates surface phosphate values, the global primary productivity agrees well with observations. Our analysis highlights some deficiencies inherent in the carbon models and where the carbon simulation is negatively impacted by known biases in the underlying physical model and consequent limits on the applicability of this model version. We conclude the study with a brief discussion of key developments required to further improve the realism of our model simulation.

Short summary
The paper describes a version of the Australian Community Climate and Earth System Simulator that has been enabled to simulate the carbon cycle, which is designated ACCESS-ESM1. The model performance for pre-industrial conditions is assessed and land and ocean carbon fluxes are found to be simulated realistically.