Reciprocal bias compensation and ensuing uncertainties in model-based climate projections: pelagic biogeochemistry versus ocean mixing

Löptien, Ulrike; Dietze, Heiner

Anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 and N2O impinge on the Earth system, which in turn modulates atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. The underlying feedback mechanisms are complex and, at times, counterintuitive. So-called Earth system models have recently matured to standard tools tailored to assess these feedback mechanisms in a warming world. Applications for these models range from being targeted at basic process understanding to the assessment of geo-engineering options. A problem endemic to all these applications is the need to estimate poorly known model parameters, specifically for the biogeochemical component, based on observational data (e.g., nutrient fields). In the present study, we illustrate with an Earth system model that through such an approach biases and other model deficiencies in the physical ocean circulation model component can reciprocally compensate for biases in the pelagic biogeochemical model component (and vice versa). We present two model configurations that share a remarkably similar steady state (based on ad hoc measures) when driven by historical boundary conditions, even though they feature substantially different configurations (parameter sets) of ocean mixing and biogeochemical cycling. When projected into the future the similarity between the model responses breaks. Metrics such as changes in total oceanic carbon content and suboxic volume diverge between the model configurations as the Earth warms. Our results reiterate that advancing the understanding of oceanic mixing processes will reduce the uncertainty of future projections of oceanic biogeochemical cycles. Related to the latter, we suggest that an advanced understanding of oceanic biogeochemical cycles can be used for advancements in ocean circulation modules.

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Löptien, Ulrike / Dietze, Heiner: Reciprocal bias compensation and ensuing uncertainties in model-based climate projections: pelagic biogeochemistry versus ocean mixing. 2019. Copernicus Publications.

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Rechteinhaber: Ulrike Löptien

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