Research Theme 1: Improving ESMs

Between IPCC AR4 (2007) and AR5 (2013) a number of physical Global Climate Models (GCMs) have been extended into Earth system models (ESMs), primarily through inclusion of an interactive treatment of the global carbon cycle (Cias et al. 2013). This has allowed an assessment of the potential response of the Earth’s carbon sources and sinks to both a changing climate and changing atmospheric concentrations of CO2. Furthermore, ESMs are beginning to allow investigation of a range of important environmental responses to a warming climate and increasing CO2 concentrations, some of which may feedback onto global climate change itself. ESMs also form a direct link between climate change and human activities, both near-term mitigation of aerosols, methane and black carbon and long-term emission targets require detailed knowledge of biogeochemical processes and feedbacks which only ESMs can provide.

IPCC AR5 highlighted that a new set of policy-relevant questions can be addressed by ESMs, such as; the level of CO2 emissions compatible with a given climate stabilization target or calculation of a new related climate change metric, the transient climate response to cumulative carbon emissions (IPCC AR5 2013; Gillet et al. 2013). However, routine and coordinated assessment of ESM performance remains fairly limited and large uncertainty in ESM output hinders their productive use in decision making. With these factors in mind, CRESCENDO targets a systematic improvement and evaluation of the overall process realism of European ESMs to enhance confidence in their projections and increase the range of questions for which such model scan be reliably used.

  • Ciais, P. et al. (2013). Carbon and Other Biogeochemical Cycles. In: Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
  • Gillett N, Vivek K. Arora, Damon Matthews, and Myles R. Allen (2013): Constraining the Ratio of Global Warming to Cumulative CO2 Emissions Using CMIP5 Simulations. J. Climate, 26, 6844–6858.
  • IPCC, 2013: Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Stocker, T.F. and co-editors CUP 1535 pp.

RT1 members

CRESCENDO's RT1 members

    Pierre Friedlingstein
    RT1 leader

    Chair in Mathematical Modelling of Climate Systems; he helps make predictions about the future of climate change, by using climate models to look at the interactions between climate and biogeochemical cycles.

  • Parvadha Suntharalingam
    RT1 leader
    University of East Anglia (UEA), UK
    Parvadha Suntharalingam
    RT1 leader

    Parv research at UEA combines my atmospheric and oceanic interests, and focuses on (a) understanding how the processes governing the global cycles of carbon, nitrogen and sulphur may change under changing anthropogenic and environmental conditions, and (b) in evaluating the potential feedbacks on climate. 

  • Victor Brovkin
    WP1 leader
    Max Planck Institute for Meteorology (MPG), Germany
    Victor Brovkin
    WP1 leader

    Victor’s research interests include: Interactions between climate and ecosystems, Biogeophysical feedbacks of landuse on climate, Role of land cover changes in Quaternary climate, and Glacial-interglacial carbon cycle dynamics.


  • Laurent Bopp
    WP2 leader
    Institut Pierre-Simon Laplace (IPSL) – CNRS, France
    Laurent Bopp
    WP2 leader

    Laurent’s research interests concern the links between marine biogeochemical cycles, marine ecosystems and climate. His main goal is to understand how biogeochemical cycles (such as the ocean carbon cycle) and marine ecosystems (from phytoplankton to fish) respond to climate change and climate variability. Time scales of interest range from interannual variability to paleoclimate, with a particular emphasis on the reponse to anthropogenic climate change. Laurent’s main research tools are marine biogeochemical and ecosystem models (such as the PISCES model), coupled to Earth System Models (such as the IPSL climate model).

    Fiona O’Connor
    WP3 leader

    Fiona's work aims to gain a better understanding of the sources and sinks of atmospheric methane; the interannual variability of methane emissions and atmospheric concentrations, and the potential feedbacks in the climate system which may affect future concentrations of atmospheric methane. She is also interested in modelling and understanding the role of short-lived atmospheric trace gases, such as ozone and methane, in climate change.

Working Packages:

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