Structure and Performance of GFDL's CM4.0 Climate Model

I. M. Held, H. Guo, A. Adcroft, J. P. Dunne, L. W. Horowitz, J. Krasting, E. Shevliakova, M. Winton, M. Zhao, M. Bushuk, A. T. Wittenberg, B. Wyman, B. Xiang, R. Zhang, W. Anderson, V. Balaji, L. Donner, K. Dunne, J. Durachta, P. P.G. GauthierP. Ginoux, J. C. Golaz, S. M. Griffies, R. Hallberg, L. Harris, M. Harrison, W. Hurlin, J. John, P. Lin, S. J. Lin, S. Malyshev, R. Menzel, P. C.D. Milly, Y. Ming, V. Naik, D. Paynter, F. Paulot, V. Rammaswamy, B. Reichl, T. Robinson, A. Rosati, C. Seman, L. G. Silvers, S. Underwood, N. Zadeh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

249 Scopus citations


We describe the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory's CM4.0 physical climate model, with emphasis on those aspects that may be of particular importance to users of this model and its simulations. The model is built with the AM4.0/LM4.0 atmosphere/land model and OM4.0 ocean model. Topics include the rationale for key choices made in the model formulation, the stability as well as drift of the preindustrial control simulation, and comparison of key aspects of the historical simulations with observations from recent decades. Notable achievements include the relatively small biases in seasonal spatial patterns of top-of-atmosphere fluxes, surface temperature, and precipitation; reduced double Intertropical Convergence Zone bias; dramatically improved representation of ocean boundary currents; a high-quality simulation of climatological Arctic sea ice extent and its recent decline; and excellent simulation of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation spectrum and structure. Areas of concern include inadequate deep convection in the Nordic Seas; an inaccurate Antarctic sea ice simulation; precipitation and wind composites still affected by the equatorial cold tongue bias; muted variability in the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation; strong 100 year quasiperiodicity in Southern Ocean ventilation; and a lack of historical warming before 1990 and too rapid warming thereafter due to high climate sensitivity and strong aerosol forcing, in contrast to the observational record. Overall, CM4.0 scores very well in its fidelity against observations compared to the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 generation in terms of both mean state and modes of variability and should prove a valuable new addition for analysis across a broad array of applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3691-3727
Number of pages37
JournalJournal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


  • CM4
  • CMIP6
  • GFDL
  • climate
  • coupled
  • model


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