We evaluate the annual mean radiative shortwave flux downward at the surface (RSDS) and reflected shortwave (RSUT) and radiative longwave flux upward at top of atmosphere (RLUT) from the twentieth century Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) and Phase 3 (CMIP3) simulations as well as from the NASA GEOS5 model and Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications analysis. The results show that a majority of the models have significant regional biases in the annual means of RSDS, RLUT, and RSUT, with biases from −30 to 30 W m−2. While the global average CMIP5 ensemble mean biases of RSDS, RLUT, and RSUT are reduced compared to CMIP3 by about 32% (e.g., −6.9 to 2.5 W m−2), 43%, and 56%, respectively. This reduction arises from a more complete cancellation of the pervasive negative biases over ocean and newly larger positive biases over land. In fact, based on these biases in the annual mean, Taylor diagram metrics, and RMSE, there is virtually no progress in the simulation fidelity of RSDS, RLUT, and RSUT fluxes from CMIP3 to CMIP5. A persistent systematic bias in CMIP3 and CMIP5 is the underestimation of RSUT and overestimation of RSDS and RLUT in the convectively active regions of the tropics. The amount of total ice and liquid atmospheric water content in these areas is also underestimated. We hypothesize that at least a part of these persistent biases stem from the common global climate model practice of ignoring the effects of precipitating and/or convective core ice and liquid in their radiation calculations.
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