An evaluation of the long-wave radiative transfer code used in the Met Office Unified Model

C Goldblatt, TM Lenton, AJ Watson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


A detailed evaluation of the radiative transfer code used in the Met Office Unified Climate/Forecast Model is performed, comparing it with a line-by-line model and testing the climatic effects of errors in a radiative-convective model. The radiative forcing at the tropopause due to CO2 changes within SRES scenarios and across Quaternary glacial cycles is represented with reasonable accuracy, suggesting that surface temperature will be correctly predicted. However, this is achieved by partial cancellation of opposing errors in upward and downward fluxes. The changes in the vertical profiles of radiative fluxes and the changes to surface and top-of-atmosphere fluxes all show significant errors, even at twice pre-industrial CO2. This causes a sign error in the change in the convective flux in the radiative-convective model. Performance of the code deteriorates rapidly above four times pre-industrial CO2. For less-abundant greenhouse gases, CH4 and N2O, the errors are larger as a proportion of their radiative forcings. Errors for surface and top-of-atmosphere fluxes for CO2 are similar to those from the mean of the general circulation model (GCM) codes submitted to the intercomparison of radiation codes for IPCC AR4, implying that errors as found here may not be uncommon in climate models. A renewed emphasis on accuracy in radiative transfer calculations and openness in intercomparison studies is necessary to improve the modelling of climate change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)619-633
Number of pages15
JournalQuarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society
Issue number640
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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