Constraining climate model parameters from observed 20th century changes

Chris E. Forest, Peter H. Stone, Andrei P. Sokolov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


We present revised probability density functions for climate model parameters (effective climate sensitivity, the rate of deep-ocean heat uptake, and the strength of the net aerosol forcing) that are based on climate change observations from the 20th century. First, we compare observed changes in surface, upper-air, and deep-ocean temperature changes against simulations of 20th century climate in which the climate model parameters were systematically varied. The estimated 90% range of effective climate sensitivity is 2-5 K but no corresponding upper bound can be placed on the equilibrium climate sensitivity. The net aerosol forcing strength for the 1980s has 90% bounds of -0.70 to -0.27 W m-2. The rate of deep-ocean heat uptake corresponds to an effective diffusivity, Kv, with a 90% range of 0.04-4.1 cm2 s-1. Second, we estimate the effective climate sensitivity and rate of deep-ocean heat uptake for 11 of the IPCC AR4 AOGCMs. By comparing against the acceptable combinations inferred from the observations, we conclude that the rates of deep-ocean heat uptake for the majority of AOGCMs lie above the observationally based median value. This implies a bias in the predictions inferred from the IPCC models alone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)911-920
Number of pages10
JournalTellus, Series A: Dynamic Meteorology and Oceanography
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Atmospheric Science


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