Climate model evaluation using satellite simulators: A like for like methodology

Project Duration: 1 year -1 July 2016 to 30 June 2017

Project Budget: $149,800

The Earth’s radiation budget is critically controlled by clouds. Their simulation is therefore a key aspect of climate model performance. The Earth’s radiation budget is critically controlled by clouds. Their simulation is therefore a key aspect of climate model performance. Current models substantially underestimate cloud cover in the Southern-Ocean region, which causes warm biases in sea surface temperatures, underestimated sea ice cover, and a misplacement of the mid-latitude storm track. We aim to ensure that the NZESM is not to be subject to these biases. Modelling clouds and their influence is a significant challenge as most cloud processes happen at scales far smaller than can be simulated in these models, often relying on case studies or simple averages which can be unrepresentative. Moreover, an interplay with tiny suspended particles (aerosols) can cause substantial differences in cloud microphysics between regions characterized by different aerosol regimes, such as Northern Hemisphere industrialized regions and the Southern Ocean.

This project will expand on two existing Deep South projects focusing on the evaluation and improvement of the New Zealand Earth Systems Model (NZESM) with specific reference to clouds in the Southern Ocean. This project will use a novel yet complementary methodology for the evaluation of clouds within the NZESM. In particular, the project will use output from a satellite simulator coupled to the NZESM, and will apply data mining techniques to that output, to compare to satellite  measurements of different cloud regimes.  The statistics derived will be used to identify the relative contribution of different cloud types at work in the Southern Ocean region; this will help improve their representation in the NZESM. Development of expertise in data mining and the comparison of model data to ground-based and satellite measurements will also enhance NZESM evaluation efforts in both the existing projects. 

Contact Principal Investigator

Assoc. Prof. Adrian McDonald, University of Canterbury,


Have a look at all Deep South Challenge - Funded Projects


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