Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/esd-2021-14
https://doi.org/10.5194/esd-2021-14

  01 Apr 2021

01 Apr 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ESD.

Coupled regional Earth system modelling in the Baltic Sea region

Matthias Gröger1, Christian Dieterich2, Jari Haapala3, Ha Thi Minh Ho-Hagemann4, Stefan Hagemann4, Jaromir Jakacki5, Wilhelm May6, H. E. Markus Meier1,2, Paul A. Miller6,7, Anna Rutgersson8, and Lichuan Wu8 Matthias Gröger et al.
  • 1Department of Physical Oceanography and Instrumentation, Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research Warnemünde, Rostock, 18119, Germany
  • 2Research and Development Department, Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute, Norrköping, 601 76, Sweden
  • 3Institute Finnish Meteorological Institute, Helsinki, Finland
  • 4Institute of Coastal Systems - Analysis and Modeling, Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht, Geesthacht, 21502 Germany
  • 5Institute of Oceanology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Sopot, Poland
  • 6Centre for Environmental and Climate Science, Lund, University, Lund, 223 62 Sweden
  • 7Department of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science, Lund University, Sweden
  • 8Department of Earth Sciences, Uppsala University, Sweden

Abstract. Non-linear responses to externally forced climate change are known to dampen or amplify the local climate impact due to complex cross compartmental feedback loops in the earth system. These feedbacks are less well represented in traditional standalone atmosphere and ocean models on which many of today's regional climate assessments rely on (e.g. EuroCordex, NOSCCA, BACC II). This promotes the development of regional climate models for the Baltic Sea region by coupling different compartments of the earth system into more comprehensive models. Coupled models more realistically represent feedback loops than the information imposed into the region by using prescribed boundary conditions, and thus, permit a higher degree of freedom. In the past, several coupled model systems have been developed for Europe and the Baltic Sea region. This article reviews recent progress of model systems that allow two way communication between atmosphere and ocean models, models for the land surface including the terrestrial biosphere, as well as wave models at the air sea interface and hydrology models for water cycle closure. However, several processes that have so far mostly been realized by one way coupling such as marine biogeochemistry, nutrient cycling and atmospheric chemistry (e.g. aerosols) are not considered here.

Compared to uncoupled standalone models, coupled earth system models models can modify mean near surface air temperatures locally up to several degrees compared to their standalone atmospheric counterparts using prescribed surface boundary conditions. Over open ocean areas, the representation of small scale oceanic processes such as vertical mixing, and sea ice dynamics appear essential to accurately resolve the air sea heat exchange in the Baltic Sea region and can only be provided by online coupled high resolution ocean models. In addition, the coupling of wave models at the ocean-atmosphere interface allows a more explicit formulation of small-scale to microphysical processes with local feedbacks to water temperature and large scale processes such as oceanic upwelling. Over land, important climate feedbacks arise from dynamical terrestrial vegetation changes as well as the implementation of land use scenarios and afforestation/deforestation that further alter surface albedo, roughness length and evapotranspiration. Furthermore, a good representation of surface temperatures and roughness length over open sea and land areas is critical for the representation of climatic extremes like e.g. heavy precipitation, storms, or tropical nights, and appear to be sensitive to coupling.

For the present-day climate, many coupled atmosphere-ocean and atmosphere-land surface models demonstrate added value with respect to single climate variables in particular when low quality boundary data were used in the respective standalone model. This makes coupled models a prospective tool for downscaling climate change scenarios from global climate models because these models often have large biases on the regional scale. However, the coupling of hydrology models for closing the water cycle remains problematic as the accuracy of precipitation provided by the atmosphere models is in most cases insufficient to realistically simulate the runoff to the Baltic Sea without bias adjustments.

Many regional standalone ocean and atmosphere models are tuned to well represent present day climatologies rather than accurately simulate climate change. More research is necessary about how the regional climate sensitivity (e.g. the models’ response to a given change in global mean temperature) is affected by coupling and how the spread is altered in multi-model and multi-scenario ensembles of coupled models compared to uncoupled ones.

Matthias Gröger et al.

Status: open (until 27 Jun 2021)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse

Matthias Gröger et al.

Matthias Gröger et al.

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Short summary
Regional climate studies are typically pursued by single earth system component models (e.g. ocean models, atmosphere models etc). These models are driven by prescribed data which hampers the simulation of feedbacks between earth system components. To overcome this, models were developed that interactivley couple model components and allow an adequate simulation of earth system interactions important for climate. The article reviews recent developments of such models for the Baltic Sea region.
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