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Statistical constraints on climate model parameters using a scalable...

Carzon, J., B. Abreu, L. Regayre, K. Carslaw, L. Deaconu, P. Stier, H. Gordon, and M. Kuusela (2023), Statistical constraints on climate model parameters using a scalable cloud-based inference framework, Environmental Data Science, 2, e24, doi:10.1017/eds.2023.12.

Atmospheric aerosols influence the Earth’s climate, primarily by affecting cloud formation and scattering visible radiation. However, aerosol-related physical processes in climate simulations are highly uncertain. Constraining these processes could help improve model-based climate predictions. We propose a scalable statistical framework for constraining the parameters of expensive climate models by comparing model outputs with observations. Using the C3.AI Suite, a cloud computing platform, we use a perturbed parameter ensemble of the UKESM1 climate model to efficiently train a surrogate model. A method for estimating a data-driven model discrepancy term is described. The strict bounds method is applied to quantify parametric uncertainty in a principled way. We demonstrate the scalability of this framework with 2 weeks’ worth of simulated aerosol optical depth data over the South Atlantic and Central African region, written from the model every 3 hr and matched in time to twice-daily MODIS satellite observations. When constraining the model using real satellite observations, we establish constraints on combinations of two model parameters using much higher time-resolution outputs from the climate model than previous studies. This result suggests that within the limits imposed by an imperfect climate model, potentially very powerful constraints may be achieved when our framework is scaled to the analysis of more observations and for longer time periods.

Impact Statement

Atmospheric aerosols influence the amount of solar radiation reflected by Earth, but the magnitude of the effect is

highly uncertain, and this is one of the key reasons why climate predictions are highly uncertain. We propose a

framework for reducing uncertainty in aerosol effects on radiation by comparing simulations from complex

This research article was awarded an Open Materials badge for transparent practices. See the Data Availability Statement for details.

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Research Program: 
Atmospheric Composition Modeling and Analysis Program (ACMAP)
Funding Sources: 
C3.ai Digital Transformation Institute