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Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  17 Jul 2020

17 Jul 2020

Review status
This preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

An observation-based evaluation and ranking of historical Earth System Model simulations for regional downscaling in the northwest North Atlantic Ocean

Arnaud Laurent1, Katja Fennel1, and Angela Kuhn2 Arnaud Laurent et al.
  • 1Department of Oceanography, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
  • 2Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, USA

Abstract. Continental shelf regions in the ocean play an important role in the global cycling of carbon and nutrients but their responses to global change are understudied. Global Earth System Models (ESM), as essential tools for building understanding of ocean biogeochemistry, are used extensively and routinely for projections of future climate states; however, their relatively coarse spatial resolution is likely not appropriate for accurately representing the complex patterns of circulation and elemental fluxes on the shelves along ocean margins. Here, we compared 29 ESMs used in the IPCC’s Assessment Rounds (AR) 5 and 6 and a regional biogeochemical model for the northwest North Atlantic (NWA) shelf to assess their ability to reproduce observations of temperature, nitrate, and chlorophyll. The NWA region is biologically productive, influenced by the large-scale Gulf Stream and Labrador Current systems, and particularly sensitive to climate change. Most ESMs compare relatively poorly to observed nitrate and chlorophyll and show differences with observed temperature due to spatial mismatches in their large-scale circulation. Model-simulated nitrate and chlorophyll compare better with available observations in AR6 than in AR5, but none of the models performs equally well for all 3 parameters. The ensemble means of all ESMs, and of the five best performing ESMs, strongly underestimate observed chlorophyll and nitrate. The regional model has a much higher spatial resolution and reproduces the observations significantly better than any of the ESMs. It also simulates reasonably well vertically resolved observations from gliders and bi-monthly ship-based monitoring observations. A ranking of the ESMs suggests that the top 3 models are appropriate as boundary forcing for regional projections of future changes in the NWA region.

Arnaud Laurent et al.

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Status: final response (author comments only)
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Arnaud Laurent et al.

Arnaud Laurent et al.


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Latest update: 23 Nov 2020
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
CMIP5 and CMIP6 models, and a high-resolution regional model, were evaluated by comparing historical simulations with observations in the Northwest North Atlantic, a climate-sensitive and biologically productive ocean margin region. Many of the CMIP models performed poorly for biological properties. There is no clear link between model resolution and skill in the global models, but an overall improvement in performance in CMIP6 from CMIP5. The regional model performed best.
CMIP5 and CMIP6 models, and a high-resolution regional model, were evaluated by comparing...