EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Spatially resolved evaluation of Earth system models with satellite column-averaged CO2

Bettina K. Gier1,2, Michael Buchwitz1, Maximilian Reuter1, Peter M. Cox3, Pierre Friedlingstein3,4, and Veronika Eyring1,2
Bettina K. Gier et al.
  • 1University of Bremen, Institute of Environmental Physics (IUP), Bremen, Germany
  • 2Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR), Institut für Physik der Atmosphäre, Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany
  • 3College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter, United Kingdom
  • 4LMD/IPSL, ENS, PSL Université, École Polytechnique, Institut Polytechnique de Paris, Sorbonne Université, CNRS, Paris, France

Earth system models (ESMs) participating in the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) showed large uncertainties in simulating atmospheric CO2 concentrations. We utilize the Earth System Model Evaluation Tool (ESMValTool) to evaluate emission-driven CMIP5 and CMIP6 simulations with satellite data of column-average CO2 mole fractions (XCO2). XCO2 time series show a large spread among the model ensembles both in CMIP5 and CMIP6. Using the satellite observations as reference, the CMIP6 models have a lower bias in the the multi-model mean than CMIP5, but the spread remains large. The satellite data are a combined data product covering the period 2003–2014 based on the Scanning Imaging Absorption Spectrometer for Atmospheric Chartography (SCIAMACHY)/Envisat (2003–2012) and Thermal And Near infrared Sensor for carbon Observation Fourier transform spectrometer/Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite (TANSO-FTS/GOSAT) (2009–2014) instruments. While the combined satellite product shows a strong negative trend of decreasing seasonal cycle amplitude (SCA) with increasing XCO2 in the northern midlatitudes, both CMIP ensembles instead show a non-significant positive trend in the multi-model mean. The negative trend is reproduced by the models when sampling them as the observations, attributing it to sampling characteristics. Applying a mask of the mean data coverage of each satellite to the models, the SCA is higher for the SCIAMACHY/Envisat mask than when using the TANSO-FTS/GOSAT mask. This induces an artificial negative trend when using observational sampling over the full period, as SCIAMACHY/Envisat covers the early period until 2012, with TANSO-FTS/GOSAT measurements starting in 2009. Overall, the CMIP6 ensemble shows better agreement with the satellite data than the CMIP5 ensemble in all considered quantities (mean XCO2, growth rate, SCA and trend in SCA). This study shows that the availability of column-integral CO2 from satellite provides a promising new way to evaluate the performance of Earth system models on a global scale, complementing existing studies that are based on in situ measurements from single ground-based stations.

How to cite: Gier, B. K., Buchwitz, M., Reuter, M., Cox, P. M., Friedlingstein, P., and Eyring, V.: Spatially resolved evaluation of Earth system models with satellite column-averaged CO2, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-11848,, 2021.


Display file

Comments on the display

to access the discussion