Articles | Volume 5, issue 3
Model description paper
14 May 2012
Model description paper |  | 14 May 2012

The CSIRO Mk3L climate system model version 1.0 – Part 2: Response to external forcings

S. J. Phipps, L. D. Rotstayn, H. B. Gordon, J. L. Roberts, A. C. Hirst, and W. F. Budd

Abstract. The CSIRO Mk3L climate system model is a coupled general circulation model, designed primarily for millennial-scale climate simulation 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. It is freely available to the research community. This paper evaluates the response of the model to external forcings which correspond to past and future changes in the climate system.

A simulation of the mid-Holocene climate is performed, in which changes in the seasonal and meridional distribution of incoming solar radiation are imposed. Mk3L correctly simulates increased summer temperatures at northern mid-latitudes and cooling in the tropics. However, it is unable to capture some of the regional-scale features of the mid-Holocene climate, with the precipitation over Northern Africa being deficient. The model simulates a reduction of between 7 and 15% in the amplitude of El Niño-Southern Oscillation, a smaller decrease than that implied by the palaeoclimate record. However, the realism of the simulated ENSO is limited by the model's relatively coarse spatial resolution.

Transient simulations of the late Holocene climate are then performed. The evolving distribution of insolation is imposed, and an acceleration technique is applied and assessed. The model successfully captures the temperature changes in each hemisphere and the upward trend in ENSO variability. However, the lack of a dynamic vegetation scheme does not allow it to simulate an abrupt desertification of the Sahara.

To assess the response of Mk3L to other forcings, transient simulations of the last millennium are performed. Changes in solar irradiance, atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations and volcanic emissions are applied to the model. The model is again broadly successful at simulating larger-scale changes in the climate system. Both the magnitude and the spatial pattern of the simulated 20th century warming are consistent with observations. However, the model underestimates the magnitude of the relative warmth associated with the Mediaeval Climate Anomaly.

Finally, three transient simulations are performed, in which the atmospheric CO2 concentration is stabilised at two, three and four times the pre-industrial value. All three simulations exhibit ongoing surface warming, reduced sea ice cover, and a reduction in the rate of North Atlantic Deep Water formation followed by its gradual recovery. Antarctic Bottom Water formation ceases, with the shutdown being permanent for a trebling and quadrupling of the CO2 concentration. The transient and equilibrium climate sensitivities of the model are determined. The short-term transient response to a doubling of the CO2 concentration at 1% per year is a warming of 1.59 ± 0.08 K, while the long-term equilibrium response is a warming of at least 3.85 ± 0.02 K.