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Looking for Progress in Modeling the Continental Indian Monsoon

Ramesh, K.V. and Goswami, P. 2014. Assessing reliability of regional climate projections: the case of Indian monsoon. Scientific Reports 4: 10.1038/srep04071.
In the words of Ramesh and Goswami (2014), "accurate projections of regional climate systems, like the Continental Indian Monsoon (CIM), are critical for assessing the sustainability of a large section of the world's population and to determine the future of the global climate system," However, they note "assessing reliability of climate change projections, especially at regional scales, remains a major challenge," and they thus state an important question to be answered "is the degree of progress made since the earlier IPCC simulations (CMIP3) to the latest recently completed CMIP5." Using the CIM as a case study, therefore, Ramesh and Goswami applied "a hierarchial approach for assessing reliability, using the accuracy in simulating the historical trend as the primary criterion" and considering only CIM rainfall (June-September), which "allowed a robust analysis with multiple sets of observations." And what did they learn?

First of all, the two researchers found that "both CMIP3 and CMIP5 simulations exhibit large spreads in simulations of average monsoon rainfall and their inter-annual variability." Second, they say "the all-simulation ensemble of CMIP5 shows a decadal variability but with phases essentially opposite to those of observations," leading them to admit CMIP5 models "have poorer quality than the CMIP3 in simulating the observed features of CIM." Ramesh and Goswami thus conclude "our results show that no significant progress has been achieved in our ability to simulate basic quantities like observed seasonal mean and trend, and hence to project the regional climate system, namely CIM, with reasonable certainty," which suggests this aspect of the climate modeling enterprise of the past few years has actually led to retrogression rather than progression.

Archived 21 May 2014