Uncertainties in the climate mean state of global observations, reanalyses, and the GFDL climate model

Update item information
Publication Type Journal Article
School or College College of Mines & Earth Sciences
Department Meteorology
Creator Reichler, Thomas J.; Kim, Junsu
Title Uncertainties in the climate mean state of global observations, reanalyses, and the GFDL climate model
Date 2008
Description Climate research relies on realistic atmospheric data over long periods of time. Global reanalyses or observations are commonly used for this type of work. However, the many problems associated with both the reanalyses and observations cast doubts on the reliability of such data for climate applications, and users often need to know how large the errors and uncertainties associated with the different data sets are. This paper is a systematic assessment of the errors and uncertainties contained in the time mean (1979"1999) of many different climate quantities taken from a variety of global data sets, including four popular reanalyses, the output of the climate model developed at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL), and a wide range of observations. We find that the ability of reanalyses to reproduce the observed climate mean state varies widely, with radiative quantities exhibiting the largest discrepancies. The different reanalysis products share many common errors, but overall the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts 40-year reanalysis (ERA-40) matches best the observations. Interestingly, the climate model reproduces the observed climate mean state of certain quantities more faithfully than the reanalyses. This indicates that modern models have reached a high level of realism in their mean state and that care must be taken when reanalyses are used to validate models. A particular concern of this paper is the time mean uncertainty associated with specific observation-based atmospheric quantities. Observational uncertainties are estimated from the difference amongst alternative data sets for the same quantity. We show that for most quantities the observational uncertainty is smaller than the error of the reanalyses or the model. However, there are some notable exceptions. In particular, for the surface fluxes of heat, momentum, and radiation the observational uncertainties can be as large as the errors seen in the reanalyses or the model. The investigation of uncertainties in upper atmospheric quantities is restricted to reanalysis and model data, since no appropriate observations are available. In this case, the reanalyses uncertainties are generally smaller than the model errors, except for quantities which describe the meridional component of the atmospheric circulation.
Type Text
Publisher American Geophysical Union (AGU)
Subject Climate; Atmospheric data; Reanalyses
Subject LCSH Climatology; Research; Atmospheric models
Language eng
Bibliographic Citation Reichler, T. J., & Kim, J. (2008). Uncertainties in the climate mean state of global observations, reanalyses, and the GFDL climate model. Journal of Geophysical Research.
Rights Management (c)American Geophysical Union (AGU)
Format Medium application/pdf
Format Extent 843,878 Bytes
Identifier ir-main,3854
ARK ark:/87278/s6ms4b9q
Setname ir_uspace
Date Created 2012-06-13
Date Modified 2021-05-06
ID 706278
Reference URL https://collections.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s6ms4b9q
Back to Search Results