Climate models without preindustrial volcanic forcing underestimate historical ocean thermal expansion

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Abstract

[1] Episodic explosive volcanic eruptions are a natural part of the climate system but are often omitted from atmosphere-ocean general circulation model (AOGCM) preindustrial spin-up and control experiments. This omission imposes a negative bias on ocean heat uptake in simulations of the historical period. In models of a range of complexity, we find that global-mean sea level rise due to thermal expansion during the last ∼ 150 years is consequently underestimated by 5–30 mm, which is a substantial proportion of the model mean of 50 mm in Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 3 AOGCMs with anthropogenic forcing only, and is therefore important in accounting for 20th century sea level rise. We test and recommend a procedure for removing the bias.

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