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Quantifying errors in trace species transport modeling

Prather, M., X. Zhua, S. Strahan, S. D. Steenrod, and J. Rodriguez (2008), Quantifying errors in trace species transport modeling, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., 105, 19617-19621, doi:10.1073/pnas.0806541106.

One expectation when computationally solving an Earth system model is that a correct answer exists, that with adequate physical approximations and numerical methods our solutions will converge to that single answer. With such hubris, we performed a controlled numerical test of the atmospheric transport of CO2 using 2 models known for accurate transport of trace species. Resulting differences were unexpectedly large, indicating that in some cases, scientific conclusions may err because of lack of knowledge of the numerical errors in tracer transport models. By doubling the resolution, thereby reducing numerical error, both models show some convergence to the same answer. Now, under realistic conditions, we identify a practical approach for finding the correct answer and thus quantifying the advection error.

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Modeling Analysis and Prediction Program (MAP)