The GFDL Earth System Model Version 4.1 (GFDL-ESM 4.1): Overall Coupled Model Description and Simulation Characteristics

J. P. Dunne, L. W. Horowitz, A. J. Adcroft, P. Ginoux, I. M. Held, J. G. John, J. P. Krasting, S. Malyshev, V. Naik, F. Paulot, E. Shevliakova, C. A. Stock, N. Zadeh, V. Balaji, C. Blanton, K. A. Dunne, C. Dupuis, J. Durachta, R. Dussin, P. P.G. GauthierS. M. Griffies, H. Guo, R. W. Hallberg, M. Harrison, J. He, W. Hurlin, C. McHugh, R. Menzel, P. C.D. Milly, S. Nikonov, D. J. Paynter, J. Ploshay, A. Radhakrishnan, K. Rand, B. G. Reichl, T. Robinson, D. M. Schwarzkopf, L. T. Sentman, S. Underwood, H. Vahlenkamp, M. Winton, A. T. Wittenberg, B. Wyman, Y. Zeng, M. Zhao

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317 Scopus citations


We describe the baseline coupled model configuration and simulation characteristics of GFDL's Earth System Model Version 4.1 (ESM4.1), which builds on component and coupled model developments at GFDL over 2013–2018 for coupled carbon-chemistry-climate simulation contributing to the sixth phase of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project. In contrast with GFDL's CM4.0 development effort that focuses on ocean resolution for physical climate, ESM4.1 focuses on comprehensiveness of Earth system interactions. ESM4.1 features doubled horizontal resolution of both atmosphere (2° to 1°) and ocean (1° to 0.5°) relative to GFDL's previous-generation coupled ESM2-carbon and CM3-chemistry models. ESM4.1 brings together key representational advances in CM4.0 dynamics and physics along with those in aerosols and their precursor emissions, land ecosystem vegetation and canopy competition, and multiday fire; ocean ecological and biogeochemical interactions, comprehensive land-atmosphere-ocean cycling of CO2, dust and iron, and interactive ocean-atmosphere nitrogen cycling are described in detail across this volume of JAMES and presented here in terms of the overall coupling and resulting fidelity. ESM4.1 provides much improved fidelity in CO2 and chemistry over ESM2 and CM3, captures most of CM4.0's baseline simulations characteristics, and notably improves on CM4.0 in (1) Southern Ocean mode and intermediate water ventilation, (2) Southern Ocean aerosols, and (3) reduced spurious ocean heat uptake. ESM4.1 has reduced transient and equilibrium climate sensitivity compared to CM4.0. Fidelity concerns include (1) moderate degradation in sea surface temperature biases, (2) degradation in aerosols in some regions, and (3) strong centennial scale climate modulation by Southern Ocean convection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2019MS002015
JournalJournal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


  • Earth system model
  • biogeochemistry
  • climate model


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