IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group I: The Physical Science Basis

TS.6.4 Projections of Future Changes in Climate

TS.6.4.1 Model Evaluation

Robust Findings:

Climate models are based on well-established physical principles and have been demonstrated to reproduce observed features of recent climate and past climate changes. There is considerable confidence that AOGCMs provide credible quantitative estimates of future climate change, particularly at continental scales and above. Confidence in these estimates is higher for some climate variables (e.g., temperature) than for others (e.g., precipitation). {FAQ 8.1}

Confidence in models has increased due to:

  • improvements in the simulation of many aspects of present climate, including important modes of climate variability and extreme hot and cold spells;
  • improved model resolution, computational methods and parametrizations and inclusion of additional processes;
  • more comprehensive diagnostic tests, including tests of model ability to forecast on time scales from days to a year when initialised with observed conditions; and
  • enhanced scrutiny of models and expanded diagnostic analysis of model behaviour facilitated by internationally coordinated efforts to collect and disseminate output from model experiments performed under common conditions. {8.4}

Key Uncertainties:

A proven set of model metrics comparing simulations with observations, that might be used to narrow the range of plausible climate projections, has yet to be developed. {8.2}

Most models continue to have difficulty controlling climate drift, particularly in the deep ocean. This drift must be accounted for when assessing change in many oceanic variables. {8.2}

Models differ considerably in their estimates of the strength of different feedbacks in the climate system. {8.6}

Problems remain in the simulation of some modes of variability, notably the Madden-Julian Oscillation, recurrent atmospheric blocking and extreme precipitation. {8.4}

Systematic biases have been found in most models’ simulations of the Southern Ocean that are linked to uncertainty in transient climate response. {8.3}

Climate models remain limited by the spatial resolution that can be achieved with present computer resources, by the need for more extensive ensemble runs and by the need to include some additional processes. {8.18.5}