Articles | Volume 6, issue 5
Model evaluation paper
21 Oct 2013
Model evaluation paper |  | 21 Oct 2013

Intercomparison of temperature trends in IPCC CMIP5 simulations with observations, reanalyses and CMIP3 models

J. Xu, A. M. Powell Jr., and L. Zhao

Abstract. On the basis of the fifth Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) and the climate model simulations covering 1979 through 2005, the temperature trends and their uncertainties have been examined to note the similarities or differences compared to the radiosonde observations, reanalyses and the third Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP3) simulations. The results show noticeable discrepancies for the estimated temperature trends in the four data groups (radiosonde, reanalysis, CMIP3 and CMIP5), although similarities can be observed.

Compared to the CMIP3 model simulations, the simulations in some of the CMIP5 models were improved. The CMIP5 models displayed a negative temperature trend in the stratosphere closer to the strong negative trend seen in the observations. However, the positive tropospheric trend in the tropics is overestimated by the CMIP5 models relative to CMIP3 models. While some of the models produce temperature trend patterns more highly correlated with the observed patterns in CMIP5, the other models (such as CCSM4 and IPSL_CM5A-LR) exhibit the reverse tendency. The CMIP5 temperature trend uncertainty was significantly reduced in most areas, especially in the Arctic and Antarctic stratosphere, compared to the CMIP3 simulations.

Similar to the CMIP3, the CMIP5 simulations overestimated the tropospheric warming in the tropics and Southern Hemisphere and underestimated the stratospheric cooling. The crossover point where tropospheric warming changes into stratospheric cooling occurred near 100 hPa in the tropics, which is higher than in the radiosonde and reanalysis data. The result is likely related to the overestimation of convective activity over the tropical areas in both the CMIP3 and CMIP5 models.

Generally, for the temperature trend estimates associated with the numerical models including the reanalyses and global climate models, the uncertainty in the stratosphere is much larger than that in the troposphere, and the uncertainty in the Antarctic is the largest. In addition, note that the reanalyses show the largest uncertainty in the lower tropical stratosphere, and the CMIP3 simulations show the largest uncertainty in both the south and north polar regions.