The Monte Carlo Independent Column Approximation: an assessment using several global atmospheric models Journal Articles uri icon

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  • AbstractThe Monte Carlo Independent Column Approximation (McICA) computes domain‐average, broadband radiative flux profiles within conventional global climate models (GCMs). While McICA is unbiased with respect to the full ICA, it generates, as a by‐product, random noise. If this by‐product leads to statistically significant impacts on GCM simulations, it could limit the usefulness of McICA. This paper assesses the impact of McICA's random noise on six GCMs. To this end, the GCMs performed ensembles of 14‐day long simulations for various renditions of McICA, each with differing amounts of random noise. As seen in the past, low‐cloud fraction and surface temperature were affected most by noise. However, all GCM simulations using operationally viable renditions of McICA showed no statistically significant impacts, even for precipitation ‐ a highly intermittent variable that one might expect to be sensitive to random fluctuations. Two GCMs showed statistically significant responses using an academic version of McICA that generates overly large sampling noise. Time series analyses of high‐resolution (i.e. typically 2‐hourly) data revealed that fluctuations associated with most variables and GCMs are immune to McICA noise. Moreover, the nature of these fluctuations can vary substantially among GCMs and most often they overwhelm any noise impacts. Overall, the results presented here corroborate a range of previous studies done on one GCM at a time: random noise produced by recommended versions of McICA has statistically insignificant effects on GCM simulations. Copyright © 2008 Royal Meteorological Society and Her Majesty in Right of Canada.


  • Barker, Howard
  • Cole, JNS
  • Morcrette, J‐J
  • Pincus, R
  • Räisänen, P
  • von Salzen, K
  • Vaillancourt, PA

publication date

  • July 2008