04 Aug 2020

04 Aug 2020

Review status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal ESD.

The Fractional Energy Balance Equation for Climate projections through 2100

Roman Procyk1, Shaun Lovejoy1, and Raphael Hébert2 Roman Procyk et al.
  • 1Physics Dept., McGill University, 3600 rue University, Montreal, Quebec, H3A 2T8, Canada
  • 2Alfred-Wegener Institute Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research, Telegrafenberg A45, 14473 Potsdam, Germany

Abstract. We produce climate projections through the 21st century using the fractional energy balance equation (FEBE) which is a generalization of the standard EBE. The FEBE can be derived either from Budyko–Sellers models or phenomenologically by applying the scaling symmetry to energy storage processes. It is easily implemented by changing the integer order of the storage (derivative) term in the EBE to a fractional value near 1/2.

The FEBE has two shape parameters: a scaling exponent H and relaxation time τ; its amplitude parameter is the equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS). Two additional parameters were needed for the forcing: an aerosol re-calibration factor α to account for the large aerosol uncertainty, and a volcanic intermittency correction exponent ν. A Bayesian framework based on historical temperatures and natural and anthropogenic forcing series was used for parameter estimation. Significantly, the error model was not ad hoc, but was predicted by the model itself: the internal variability response to white noise internal forcing.

The 90 % Confidence Interval (CI) of the shape parameters were H = [0.33, 0.44] (median = 0.38), τ = [2.4, 7.0] (median = 4.7) years compared to the usual EBE H = 1, and literature values τ typically in the range 2–8 years. We found that aerosols were too strong by an average factor α = [0.2, 1.0] (median = 0.6) and the volcanic intermittency correction exponent was ν = [0.15, 0.41] (median = 0.28) compared to standard values α = ν = 1. The overpowered aerosols support a revision of the global modern (2005) aerosol forcing 90 % CI to a narrower range [−1.0, −0.2] W m−2 compared with the IPCC AR5 range [1.5, 4.5] K (median = 3.2 K). Similarly, we found the transient climate sensitivity (TCR) = [1.2, 1.8] K (median = 1.5 K) compared to the AR5 range TCR = [1.0, 2.5] K (median = 1.8 K). As commonly seen in other observational-based studies, the FEBE values are therefore somewhat lower but still consistent with those in IPCC AR5.

Using these parameters we made projections to 2100 using both the Representative Carbon Pathways (RCP) and Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSP) scenarios and shown alongside the CMIP5/6 MME. The FEBE hindprojections (1880–2019) closely follow observations (notably during the hiatus, 1998–2015). Overall the FEBE were 10–15 % lower but due to their smaller uncertainties, their 90 % CIs lie completely within the GCM 90 % CIs. The FEBE thus complements and supports the GCMs.

Roman Procyk et al.

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Roman Procyk et al.

Roman Procyk et al.


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Short summary
This paper presents a new class of energy balance model that accounts for the long memory within the Earth's energy storage. The model is calibrated on instrumental temperature records and the historical energy budget of the Earth using an error model predicted by the model itself. Our equilibrium climate sensitivity and future temperature projection estimates are consistent with those estimated by complex climate models.