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More Problems with Decadal Climate-Model Prediction Skills
Volume 16, Number 13: 27 March 2013

In an intriguing paper published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, Guemas et al. (2012) write that "the North Pacific region has a strong influence on North American and Asian climate." They also say that it is "the area with the worst performance in several state-of-the-art decadal climate predictions." And they add that the failure of essentially all climate models "to represent two major warm sea surface temperature events occurring around 1963 and 1968 largely contributes to this poor skill," noting that "understanding the causes of these major warm events is thus of primary concern to improve prediction of North Pacific, North American and Asian climate."

In attempting to forge ahead in this direction, the five researchers investigated "the reasons for this particularly low skill," identifying and describing the two major warm events that they say have been "consistently missed by every climate forecast system."

Based on their study of eleven observational data sets, the five researchers suggest that the 1963 warm event "stemmed from the propagation of a warm anomaly along the Kuroshio-Oyashio extension," while the 1968 warm event "originated from the upward transfer of a warm water mass centered at 200 meters depth." And on this basis they conclude that "biases in ocean mixing processes present in many climate prediction models seem to explain the inability to predict these two major events," which themselves need to be predicted in order to adequately project decadal climate changes in the North Pacific region.

Most interestingly, and in spite of the stated fact that "reducing systematic biases in ocean stratification and improving the representation of ocean mixing processes has been a long-standing effort," Guemas et al. write that their findings suggest that allocating still more resources to "improving simulation of ocean mixing has the potential to significantly improve decadal climate prediction."

But does it logically follow that earmarking more money for simply doing more of the same will ever get us where we want to go? Or is this a classic case of ever learning, but never attaining to a knowledge of the truth? ... kind of like going nowhere fast?? .... but going there in style??? And if it is, do we really want to throw good money after what has so far appeared to be bad?

Sherwood, Keith and Craig Idso

Guemas, V., Doblas-Reyes, F.J., Lienert, F., Soufflet, Y. and Du, H. 2012. Identifying the causes of the poor decadal climate prediction skill over the North Pacific. Journal of Geophysical Research 117: 10.1029/2012JD018004.