15 Nov 2023
 | 15 Nov 2023
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ESD.

Impact of volcanic eruptions on CMIP6 decadal predictions: A multi-model analysis

Roberto Bilbao, Pablo Ortega, Didier Swingedouw, Leon Hermanson, Panos Athanasiadis, Rosie Eade, Marion Devilliers, Francisco Doblas-Reyes, Nick Dunstone, An-Chi Ho, William Merryfield, Juliette Mignot, Dario Nicolì, Margarida Samsó, Reinel Sospedra-Alfonso, Xian Wu, and Stephen Yeager

Abstract. In recent decades three major volcanic eruptions of different intensity have occurred (Mount Agung in 1963, El Chichón in 1982 and Mount Pinatubo in 1991), with reported climate impacts on seasonal-to-decadal timescales that could have been potentially predictable with accurate and timely estimates of the associated stratospheric aerosol loads. The Decadal Climate Prediction Project component C (DCPP-C) includes a protocol to investigate the impact of such volcanic eruptions on decadal prediction. It consists in repeating the retrospective predictions that are initialised just before the last three major volcanic eruptions but without the inclusion of the volcanic forcing, which are then compared with the baseline predictions to disentangle their effect. We present the results from six CMIP6 decadal prediction systems. These systems show a strong agreement in predicting the radiative response to the volcanic eruptions, simulating a reduction in global mean top-of-atmosphere radiation fluxes, surface temperature and ocean heat content. The characteristic geographical patterns of the response are consistent across the models and share similarities across the volcanic eruptions, however some differences across models and eruptions arise due to the varying magnitude and spatiotemporal structure of the volcanic forcing. Taking advantage of the large multi-model ensemble we additionally analyse the dynamical responses in the Northern Hemisphere atmospheric circulation, in the tropical Pacific Ocean and the North Atlantic Ocean. Comparing the predicted surface temperature anomalies in the two sets of hindcasts (with and without volcanic forcing) with observations we show that including the volcanic forcing results in overall better predictions. The volcanic forcing is found to be particularly relevant for reproducing the observed SST variability in the North Atlantic Ocean following the 1991 eruption of Pinatubo, however in the tropical Pacific Ocean the predicted SST anomalies are degraded.

Roberto Bilbao et al.

Status: open (until 27 Dec 2023)

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Roberto Bilbao et al.

Roberto Bilbao et al.


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Short summary
In recent decades three major volcanic eruptions have occurred: Mount Agung in 1963, El Chichón in 1982 and Mount Pinatubo in 1991. In this article we explore the climatic impacts of these volcanic eruptions with a purposefully designed set of simulations from six CMIP6 decadal prediction systems. We analyse the radiative and dynamical responses and show that including the volcanic forcing in these predictions is important to reproduce the observed surface temperature variations.