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An energy conservation analysis of ocean drift in the CMIP5 global coupled models

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-18, 16:50 authored by William HobbsWilliam Hobbs, Palmer, MD, Monselesan, D
Climate model simulations of changes to the Earth’s energy budget are fundamental to improving our understanding of both historical and future climate change. However, coupled models are prone to ‘drift’ i.e. spurious unforced trends in state variables, due to incomplete spin-up or non-closure of the energy budget. In this work we assess the globally integrated energy budgets of 25 models in the CMIP5 suite. We show that for many of the models there is a significant disagreement between ocean heat content changes and net top-of-atmosphere radiation. The disagreement is largely time-constant and independent of forcing scenario. Furthermore, the most of the non-conservation seems to occur as a result of energy leaks external to the ocean model realm. After drift correction, the time varying-energy budget is consistent at decadal time scales, and model responses to climate forcing are not sensitive to the magnitude of their drift. This demonstrates that although drift terms can be significant, model output can be corrected post-hoc without biasing results.


Publication title

Journal of Climate










Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Amer Meteorological Soc

Place of publication

45 Beacon St, Boston, USA, Ma, 02108-3693

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Copyright 2016 American Meteorological Society (AMS). Permission to use figures, tables, and brief excerpts from this work in scientific and educational works is hereby granted provided that the source is acknowledged. Any use of material in this work that is determined to be “fair use” under Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act September 2010 Page 2 or that satisfies the conditions specified in Section 108 of the U.S. Copyright Act (17 USC §108, as revised by P.L. 94-553) does not require the AMS’s permission. Republication, systematic reproduction, posting in electronic form, such as on a web site or in a searchable database, or other uses of this material, except as exempted by the above statement, requires written permission or a license from the AMS. Additional details are provided in the AMS Copyright Policy, available on the AMS Web site located at ( or from the AMS at 617-227-2425 or

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Climate change models