IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group I: The Physical Science Basis Perturbed Physics Ensembles

The AOGCMs featured in Section 10.5.2 are built by selecting components from a pool of alternative parametrizations, each based on a given set of physical assumptions and including a number of uncertain parameters. In principle, the range of predictions consistent with these components could be quantified by constructing very large ensembles with systematic sampling of multiple options for parametrization schemes and parameter values, while avoiding combinations likely to double-count the effect of perturbing a given physical process. Such an approach has been taken using simple climate models and EMICs (Wigley and Raper, 2001; Knutti et al., 2002), and Murphy et al. (2004) and Stainforth et al. (2005) describe the first steps in this direction using AOGCMs, constructing large ensembles by perturbing poorly constrained parameters in the atmospheric component of UKMO-HadCM3 coupled to a mixed layer ocean. These experiments quantify the range of equilibrium responses to doubled atmospheric CO2 consistent with uncertain parameters in a single GCM. Murphy et al. (2004) perturbed 29 parameters one at a time, assuming that effects of individual parameters were additive but making a simple allowance for additional uncertainty introduced by nonlinear interactions. They find a probability distribution for climate sensitivity with a 5 to 95% range of 2.4°C to 5.4°C when weighting the models with a broadly based metric of the agreement between simulated and observed climatology, compared to 1.9°C to 5.3°C when all model versions are assumed equally reliable (Box 10.2, Figure 1c).

Stainforth et al. (2005) deployed a distributed computing approach (Allen, 1999) to run a very large ensemble of 2,578 simulations sampling combinations of high, intermediate and low values of six parameters known to affect climate sensitivity. They find climate sensitivities ranging from 2°C to 11°C, with 4.2% of model versions exceeding 8°C, and show that the high-sensitivity models cannot be ruled out, based on a comparison with surface annual mean climatology. By utilising multivariate linear relationships between climate sensitivity and spatial fields of several present-day observables, the 5 to 95% range of climate sensitivity is estimated at 2.2°C to 6.8°C from the same data set (Piani et al., 2005; Box 10.2 Figure 1c). In this ensemble, Knutti et al. (2006) find a strong relationship between climate sensitivity and the amplitude of the seasonal cycle in surface temperature in the present-day simulations. Most of the simulations with high sensitivities overestimate the observed amplitude. Based on this relationship, the 5 to 95% range of climate sensitivity is estimated at 1.5°C to 6.4°C (Box 10.2, Figure 1c). The differences between the PDFs in Box 10.2, Figure 1c, which are all based on the same climate model, reflect uncertainties in methodology arising from choices of uncertain parameters, their expert-specified prior distributions and alternative applications of observational constraints. They do not account for uncertainties associated with changes in ocean circulation, and do not account for structural model errors (Smith, 2002; Goldstein and Rougier, 2004)

Annan et al. (2005a) use an ensemble Kalman Filter technique to obtain uncertainty ranges for model parameters in an EMIC subject to the constraint of minimising simulation errors with respect to a set of climatological observations. Using this method, Hargreaves and Annan (2006) find that the risk of a collapse in the Atlantic MOC (in response to increasing CO2) depends on the set of observations to which the EMIC parameters are tuned. Section 9.6.3 assesses perturbed physics studies of the link between climate sensitivity and cooling during the Last Glacial Maximum (Annan et al., 2005b; Schneider von Deimling et al., 2006).