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

The carbon cycle in the Australian Community Climate and Earth System Simulator (ACCESS-ESM1) – Part 2: Historical simulations

Tilo Ziehn, Andrew Lenton, Rachel M. Law, Richard J. Matear, and Matthew A. Chamberlain

Abstract. Over the last decade many climate models have evolved into Earth system models (ESMs), which are able to simulate both physical and biogeochemical processes through the inclusion of additional components such as the carbon cycle. The Australian Community Climate and Earth System Simulator (ACCESS) has been recently extended to include land and ocean carbon cycle components in its ACCESS-ESM1 version. A detailed description of ACCESS-ESM1 components including results from pre-industrial simulations is provided in Part 1. Here, we focus on the evaluation of ACCESS-ESM1 over the historical period (1850–2005) in terms of its capability to reproduce climate and carbon-related variables. Comparisons are performed with observations, if available, but also with other ESMs to highlight common weaknesses. We find that climate variables controlling the exchange of carbon are well reproduced. However, the aerosol forcing in ACCESS-ESM1 is somewhat larger than in other models, which leads to an overly strong cooling response in the land from about 1960 onwards. The land carbon cycle is evaluated for two scenarios: running with a prescribed leaf area index (LAI) and running with a prognostic LAI. We overestimate the seasonal mean (1.7 vs. 1.4) and peak amplitude (2.0 vs. 1.8) of the prognostic LAI at the global scale, which is common amongst CMIP5 ESMs. However, the prognostic LAI is our preferred choice, because it allows for the vegetation feedback through the coupling between LAI and the leaf carbon pool. Our globally integrated land–atmosphere flux over the historical period is 98 PgC for prescribed LAI and 137 PgC for prognostic LAI, which is in line with estimates of land use emissions (ACCESS-ESM1 does not include land use change). The integrated ocean–atmosphere flux is 83 PgC, which is in agreement with a recent estimate of 82 PgC from the Global Carbon Project for the period 1959–2005. The seasonal cycle of simulated atmospheric CO2 is close to the observed seasonal cycle (up to 1 ppm difference for the station at Mace Head and up to 2 ppm for the station at Mauna Loa), but shows a larger amplitude (up to 6 ppm) in the high northern latitudes. Overall, ACCESS-ESM1 performs well over the historical period, making it a useful tool to explore the change in land and oceanic carbon uptake in the future.

Short summary
Our work presents the evaluation of the Australian Community Climate and Earth System Simulator (ACCESS-ESM1) over the historical period (1850–2005). The main focus is on climate and carbon related variables. Globally integrated land–atmosphere and ocean–atmosphere fluxes and flux patterns are well reproduced and show good agreement with most recent observations. This makes ACCESS-ESM1 a useful tool to explore the change in land and oceanic carbon uptake in the future.