Wednesday, November 6, 2019

                               ONE MODEL, ONE VOTE :
                  WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG ?

Gavin Schmidt writes about a terrible idea at RealClimate :

Sensitive But Unclassified

... The results from climate models that are being run for CMIP6 have been talked about for a few months as the papers describing them have made it in to the literature, and the first assessments of the multi-model ensemble have been done. For those of you not familiar with the CMIP process, it is a periodic exercise for any climate model groups who want to have their results compared with other models and observations in a consistent manner...

The main focus has been on the climate sensitivity of these models – not necessarily because it’s the most important diagnostic, but it is an easily calculated short-hand to encapsulate the total feedbacks that occur as you increase CO2.

The first public hint of something strange going on, was at the Barcelona CMIP6 meeting in March earlier this year where this graphic showing Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity (ECS) for the models was prepared:

This showed that quite a few of the models were possibly coming in with sensitivities above 5ºC...

So what should people make of this? Here are some options:

These new higher numbers might be correct. As cloud micro-physical understanding has improved and models better match the real climate, they will converge on a higher ECS. 
These new numbers are not correct. There are however many ways in which this might have manifest: 
The high ECS models have all included something new and wrong. 
They have all neglected a key process that should have been included with the package they did implement. 
There has been some overfitting to imperfect observations.
The experimental set-up from which the ECS numbers are calculated is flawed.
There are arguments pro and con for each of these possibilities, and it is premature to decide which of them are relevant. It isn’t even clear that there is one answer that will explain all the high values – it might all be a coincidence – a catalogue of unfortunate choices that give this emergent pattern. 

We probably won’t find out for a while – though many people are now looking at this.What is clear is that (for the first time) the discord between the GCMs and the external constraints is going to cause a headache for the upcoming IPCC report. The deadline for papers to be submitted for consideration for the second order draft is in December 2019, and while there will be some papers on this topic submitted by then. I am not confident that the basic conundrums will be resolved. Thus the chapter on climate sensitivity is going to be contrasted strongly with the chapter on model projections. 

Model democracy (one model, one vote) is a obviously a terrible idea and if adopted in AR6, will be even more problematic. However, no other scheme has been demonstrated to work better.