Surface air relative humidities spuriously exceeding 100% in CMIP5 model output and their impact on future projections

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Ruosteenoja , K , Jylha , K , Räisänen , J & Mäkelä , A 2017 , ' Surface air relative humidities spuriously exceeding 100% in CMIP5 model output and their impact on future projections ' , Journal of Geophysical Research : Atmospheres , vol. 122 , no. 18 , pp. 9557-9568 . https://doi.org/10.1002/2017JD026909

Title: Surface air relative humidities spuriously exceeding 100% in CMIP5 model output and their impact on future projections
Author: Ruosteenoja, Kimmo; Jylha, Kirsti; Räisänen, Jouni; Mäkelä, Antti
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Department of Physics
Date: 2017-09-27
Language: eng
Number of pages: 12
Belongs to series: Journal of Geophysical Research : Atmospheres
ISSN: 2169-897X
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10138/308149
Abstract: In 17 out of the 29 Phase 5 of Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) climate models examined in this work, near-surface air relative humidity (RH) frequently exceeded 100% with respect to ice in polar areas in winter. The degree of supersaturation varied considerably across the models, and the same evidently applies to the causes of the phenomenon. Consultations with the modeling groups revealed three categories of explanations for supersaturation occurrence: specification of RH with respect to ice rather than liquid water; inconsistencies in the determination of specific humidity and air temperature for the near-surface level; and the nonlinearity of saturated specific humidity as a function of temperature. Modeled global warming tended to reduce the artificial supersaturations, inducing a spurious negative trend in the future RH change. For example, over East Antarctica under Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5, the multimodel mean RH would decrease by about 10% by the end of the ongoing century. Truncation of overly high RHs to a maximum value of 100% cut the RH response close to zero. In Siberia and northern North America, truncation even reversed the sign of the response. The institutes responsible for the CMIP6 model experiments should be aware of the supersaturation issue, and the algorithms used to produce near-surface RH should be developed to eliminate the problem before publishing the RH output data. Plain Language Summary In the atmosphere, observed relative humidity is between 0% and 100%. However, some climate models produce spurious higher than 100% humidities. The problem only concerns polar areas in winter. As temperatures rise in the future, such model-produced excessively high relative humidities partially vanish. Unfortunately, this induces a spurious negative trend in the future humidity projections. Such a spurious component in the simulated trend complicates discerning the real physically based trend. The spurious trend could be eliminated by truncating the portion of relative humidity that exceeds 100% in the model output data. Even so, this may not be fully adequate for elaborating reliable humidity projections for polar areas. Therefore, it is highly desirable that the relative humidity calculations in the climate models would be developed so that unrealistic relative humidities would not occur in future model generations. We emphasize that this issue only concerns humidity projections and does not affect model-based predictions of temperature and precipitation change.
Subject: ANTARCTICA
LAND
RISK
ICE
114 Physical sciences
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