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Uncertainties in climate change prediction : El Nino-Southern Oscillation and monsoons

  • The sensitivity of climate phenomena in the low latitudes to enhanced greenhouse conditions is a scientific issue of high relevance to billions of people in the poorest countries of the globe. So far, most studies dealt with individual model results. In the present analysis, we refer to 79 coupled ocean–atmosphere simulations from 12 different climate models under 6 different IPCC scenarios. The basic question is as to what extent various state-of-the-art climate models agree in predicting changes in the main features of El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the monsoon climates in South Asia and West Africa. The individual model runs are compared with observational data in order to judge whether the spatio-temporal characteristics ofThe sensitivity of climate phenomena in the low latitudes to enhanced greenhouse conditions is a scientific issue of high relevance to billions of people in the poorest countries of the globe. So far, most studies dealt with individual model results. In the present analysis, we refer to 79 coupled ocean–atmosphere simulations from 12 different climate models under 6 different IPCC scenarios. The basic question is as to what extent various state-of-the-art climate models agree in predicting changes in the main features of El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the monsoon climates in South Asia and West Africa. The individual model runs are compared with observational data in order to judge whether the spatio-temporal characteristics of ENSO are well reproduced. The model experiments can be grouped into multi-model ensembles. Thus, climate change signals in the classical index time series, in the principal components and in the time series of interannual variability can be evaluated against the background of internal variability and model uncertainty. There are large differences between the individual model predictions until the end of the 21st century, especially in terms of monsoon rainfall and the Southern Oscillation index (SOI). The majority of the models tends to project La Niña-like anomalies in the SOI and an intensification of the summer monsoon precipitation in India and West Africa. However, the response barely exceeds the level of natural variability and the systematic intermodel variations are larger than the impact of different IPCC scenarios. Nonetheless, there is one prominent climate change signal, which stands out from model variations and internal noise: All forced model experiments agree in predicting a substantial warming in the eastern tropical Pacific. This oceanic heating does not necessarily lead to a modification of ENSO towards more frequent El Niño and/or La Niña events. It simply represents a change in the background state of ENSO. Indeed, we did not find convincing multi-model evidence for a modification of the wavelet spectra in terms of ENSO or the monsoons. Some models suggest an intensification of the annual cycle but this signal is fairly model-dependent. Thus, large model uncertainty still exists with respect to the future behaviour of climate in the low latitudes. This has to be taken into account when addressing climate change signals in individual model experiments and ensembles.show moreshow less

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Metadaten
Document Type:Peer-Reviewed Article
Author:Heiko Paeth, Anja Scholten, Petra Friederichs, Andreas Hense
Year of Publication:2008
Language:English
Source Title (English):Global and planetary change
DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloplacha.2007.03.002
Volume:60
Issue:3-4
First Page:265
Last Page:288
Division:Energie-, Verkehrs- und Klimapolitik
Dewey Decimal Classification:320 Politik