Articles | Volume 11, issue 4
16 Feb 2011
 | 16 Feb 2011

Emulating coupled atmosphere-ocean and carbon cycle models with a simpler model, MAGICC6 – Part 1: Model description and calibration

M. Meinshausen, S. C. B. Raper, and T. M. L. Wigley

Abstract. Current scientific knowledge on the future response of the climate system to human-induced perturbations is comprehensively captured by various model intercomparison efforts. In the preparation of the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), intercomparisons were organized for atmosphere-ocean general circulation models (AOGCMs) and carbon cycle models, named "CMIP3" and "C4MIP", respectively. Despite their tremendous value for the scientific community and policy makers alike, there are some difficulties in interpreting the results. For example, radiative forcings were not standardized across the various AOGCM integrations and carbon cycle runs, and, in some models, key forcings were omitted. Furthermore, the AOGCM analysis of plausible emissions pathways was restricted to only three SRES scenarios. This study attempts to address these issues. We present an updated version of MAGICC, the simple carbon cycle-climate model used in past IPCC Assessment Reports with enhanced representation of time-varying climate sensitivities, carbon cycle feedbacks, aerosol forcings and ocean heat uptake characteristics. This new version, MAGICC6, is successfully calibrated against the higher complexity AOGCMs and carbon cycle models. Parameterizations of MAGICC6 are provided. The mean of the emulations presented here using MAGICC6 deviates from the mean AOGCM responses by only 2.2% on average for the SRES scenarios. This enhanced emulation skill in comparison to previous calibrations is primarily due to: making a "like-with-like comparison" using AOGCM-specific subsets of forcings; employing a new calibration procedure; as well as the fact that the updated simple climate model can now successfully emulate some of the climate-state dependent effective climate sensitivities of AOGCMs. The diagnosed effective climate sensitivity at the time of CO2 doubling for the AOGCMs is on average 2.88 °C, about 0.33 °C cooler than the mean of the reported slab ocean climate sensitivities. In the companion paper (Part 2) of this study, we examine the combined climate system and carbon cycle emulations for the complete range of IPCC SRES emissions scenarios and the new RCP pathways.

Final-revised paper