This chapter assesses the capacity of the global climatemodels used elsewhere in this report for projecting future
climate change. Confi dence in model estimates of future climateevolution has been enhanced via a range of advances since theIPCC Third Assessment Report (TAR).
Climate models are based on well-established physical
principles and have been demonstrated to reproduce observedfeatures of recent climate (see Chapters 8 and 9) and past climatechanges (see Chapter 6). There is considerable confi dence that
Atmosphere-Ocean General Circulation Models (AOGCMs)
provide credible quantitative estimates of future climate
change, particularly at continental and larger scales. Confi dence
inthese estimates is higher for some climate variables (e.g.,
temperature) than for others (e.g., precipitation). This summaryhighlights areas of progress since the TAR:
• Enhanced scrutiny of models and expanded diagnostic
analysis of model behaviour have been increasingly
facilitated by internationally coordinated efforts to
collect and disseminate output from model experiments performed under common conditions. This has encouraged
a more comprehensive and open evaluation of models.
The expanded evaluation effort, encompassing a diversityof perspectives, makes it less likely that signifi cant modelerrors are being overlooked.
• Climate models are being subjected to more
comprehensive tests, including, for example, evaluationsof forecasts on time scales from days to a year. This more
diverse set of tests increases confi dence in the fi delity
with which models represent processes that affect climate projections.• Substantial progress has been made in understanding theinter-model differences in equilibrium climate sensitivity.Cloud feedbacks have been confi rmed as a primary sourceof these differences, with low clouds making the largestcontribution. New observational and modelling evidence
strongly supports a combined water vapour-lapse rate
feedback of a strength comparable to that found inGeneral Circulation Models (approximately 1 W m
,corresponding to around a 50% amplifi cation of globalmean warming). The magnitude of cryospheric feedbacks
remains uncertain, contributing to the range of model
climate responses at mid- to high latitudes.•
There have been ongoing improvements to resolution,
computational methods and parametrizations, and
additional processes (e.g., interactive aerosols) have beenincluded in more of the climate models.• Most AOGCMs no longer use fl ux adjustments, which
were previously required to maintain a stable climate.
Climate Models and Their Evaluation
At the same time, there have been improvements in
the simulation of many aspects of present climate. The
uncertainty associated with the use of fl ux adjustments
has therefore decreased, although biases and long-term
trends remain in AOGCM control simulations.• Progress in the simulation of important modes of climate
variability has increased the overall confi dence in themodels’ representation of important climate processes.
As a result of steady progress, some AOGCMs can now
simulate important aspects of the El Niño-Southern
(ENSO). Simulation of the Madden-Julian
Oscillation (MJO) remains unsatisfactory.•
The ability of AOGCMs to simulate extreme events,
especially hot and cold spells, has improved. The
frequency and amount of precipitation falling in intenseevents are underestimated.• Simulation of extratropical cyclones has improved. Somemodels used for projections of tropical cyclone changes
can simulate successfully the observed frequency and
distribution of tropical cyclones.• Systematic biases have been found in most models’
simulation of the Southern Ocean. Since the Southern
Ocean is important for ocean heat uptake, this results insome uncertainty in transient climate response.• The possibility that metrics based on observations might be used to constrain model projections of climate changehas been explored for the fi rst time, through the analysis
of ensembles of model simulations. Nevertheless, a
proven set of model metrics that might be used to narrow
the range of plausible climate projections has yet to be
To explore the potential importance of carbon cyclefeedbacks in the climate system, explicit treatment of the carbon cycle has been introduced in a few climate
AOGCMs and some Earth System Models of IntermediateComplexity (EMICs).
• Earth System Models of Intermediate Complexity
have been evaluated in greater depth than previously.
Coordinated intercomparisons have demonstrated thatthese models are useful in addressing questions involvinglong time scales or requiring a large number of ensemblesimulations or sensitivity experiments.