The Community Climate System Model Academic Article uri icon


  • The Community Climate System Model (CCSM) has been created to represent the principal components of the climate system and their interactions. Development and applications of the model are carried out by the U.S. climate research community, thus taking advantage of both wide intellectual participation and computing capabilities beyond those available to most individual U.S. institutions. This article outlines the history of the CCSM, its current capabilities, and plans for its future development and applications, with the goal of providing a summary useful to present and future users. The initial version of the CCSM included atmosphere and ocean general circulation models, a land surface model that was grafted onto the atmosphere model, a sea-ice model, and a "flux coupler" that facilitates information exchanges among the component models with their differing grids. This version of the model produced a successful 300-yr simulation of the current climate without artificial flux adjustments. The model was then used to perform a coupled simulation in which the atmospheric CO2 concentration increased by 1 % per year. In this version of the coupled model, the ocean salinity and deep-ocean temperature slowly drifted away from observed values. A subsequent correction to the roughness length used for sea ice significantly reduced these errors. An updated version of the CCSM was used to perform three simulations of the twentieth century's climate, and several projections of the climate of the twenty-first century. The CCSM's simulation of the tropical ocean circulation has been significantly improved by reducing the background vertical diffusivity and incorporating an anisotropic horizontal viscosity tensor. The meridional resolution of the ocean model was also refined near the equator. These changes have resulted in a greatly improved simulation of both the Pacific equatorial undercurrent and the surface countercurrents. The interannual variability of the sea surface temperature in the central and eastern tropical Pacific is also more realistic in simulations with the updated model. Scientific challenges to be addressed with future versions of the CCSM include realistic simulation of the whole atmosphere, including the middle and upper atmosphere, as well as the troposphere; simulation of changes in the chemical composition of the atmosphere through the incorporation of an integrated chemistry model; inclusion of global, prognostic biogeochemical components for land, ocean, and atmosphere; simulations of past climates, including times of extensive continental glaciation as well as times with little or no ice; studies of natural climate variability on seasonal-to-centennial timescales; and investigations of anthropogenic climate change. In order to make such studies possible, work is under way to improve all components of the model. Plans call for a new version of the CCSM to be released in 2002. Planned studies with the CCSM will require much more computer power than is currently available.

author list (cited authors)

  • Blackmon, M., Boville, B., Bryan, F., Dickinson, R., Gent, P., Kiehl, J., ... Washington, W.

citation count

  • 107

publication date

  • November 2001