Articles | Volume 4, issue 2
Geosci. Model Dev., 4, 483–509, 2011

Special issue: The CSIRO Mk3L climate system model

Geosci. Model Dev., 4, 483–509, 2011

Model description paper 17 Jun 2011

Model description paper | 17 Jun 2011

The CSIRO Mk3L climate system model version 1.0 – Part 1: Description and evaluation

S. J. Phipps1,2,3,4, L. D. Rotstayn5, H. B. Gordon5, J. L. Roberts2,3,6, A. C. Hirst5, and W. F. Budd1,2,3 S. J. Phipps et al.
  • 1Institute of Antarctic and Southern Ocean Studies, University of Tasmania, Australia
  • 2Antarctic Climate & Ecosystems CRC, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
  • 3Tasmanian Partnership for Advanced Computing, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
  • 4Climate Change Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Australia
  • 5Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, A partnership between CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology, Aspendale, Victoria, Australia
  • 6Australian Antarctic Division, Kingston, Tasmania, Australia

Abstract. The CSIRO Mk3L climate system model is a coupled general circulation model, designed primarily for millennial-scale climate simulations and palaeoclimate research. Mk3L includes components which describe the atmosphere, ocean, sea ice and land surface, and combines computational efficiency with a stable and realistic control climatology. This paper describes the model physics and software, analyses the control climatology, and evaluates the ability of the model to simulate the modern climate.

Mk3L incorporates a spectral atmospheric general circulation model, a z-coordinate ocean general circulation model, a dynamic-thermodynamic sea ice model and a land surface scheme with static vegetation. The source code is highly portable, and has no dependence upon proprietary software. The model distribution is freely available to the research community. A 1000-yr climate simulation can be completed in around one-and-a-half months on a typical desktop computer, with greater throughput being possible on high-performance computing facilities.

Mk3L produces realistic simulations of the larger-scale features of the modern climate, although with some biases on the regional scale. The model also produces reasonable representations of the leading modes of internal climate variability in both the tropics and extratropics. The control state of the model exhibits a high degree of stability, with only a weak cooling trend on millennial timescales. Ongoing development work aims to improve the model climatology and transform Mk3L into a comprehensive earth system model.