Creating “Intelligent” Climate Model Ensemble Averages Using a Process-Based Framework

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Noel C Baker and Patrick C Taylor, NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA, United States
The CMIP5 archive contains future climate projections from over 50 models provided by dozens of modeling centers from around the world. Individual model projections, however, are subject to biases created by structural model uncertainties. As a result, ensemble averaging of multiple models is often used to add value to model projections: consensus projections have been shown to consistently outperform individual models. Previous reports for the IPCC establish climate change projections based on an equal-weighted average of all model projections. However, certain models reproduce climate processes better than other models. Should models be weighted based on performance? Unequal ensemble averages have previously been constructed using a variety of mean state metrics. What metrics are most relevant for constraining future climate projections? This project develops a framework for systematically testing metrics in models to identify optimal metrics for unequal weighting multi-model ensembles. A unique aspect of this project is the construction and testing of climate process-based model evaluation metrics. A climate process-based metric is defined as a metric based on the relationship between two physically related climate variables—e.g., outgoing longwave radiation and surface temperature. Metrics are constructed using high-quality Earth radiation budget data from NASA's Clouds and Earth's Radiant Energy System (CERES) instrument and surface temperature data sets. It is found that regional values of tested quantities can vary significantly when comparing weighted and unweighted model ensembles. For example, one tested metric weights the ensemble by how well models reproduce the time-series probability distribution of the cloud forcing component of reflected shortwave radiation. The weighted ensemble for this metric indicates lower simulated precipitation (up to .7 mm/day) in tropical regions than the unweighted ensemble: since CMIP5 models have been shown to overproduce precipitation, this result could indicate that the metric is effective in identifying models which simulate more realistic precipitation. Ultimately, the goal of the framework is to identify performance metrics for advising better methods for ensemble averaging models and create better climate predictions.