Global climate models forced by sea surface temperature are standard tools in seasonal climate prediction and in projection of future climate change caused by anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases. Assessing the ability of these models to reproduce observed atmospheric circulation given the lower boundary conditions, and thus its ability to predict climate, has been a recurrent concern. Several assessments have shown that the performance of models is seasonally dependent, but there has always been the assumption that, for a given season, the model skill is constant throughout the period being analyzed. Here, it is demonstrated that there are periods when these models perform well and periods when they do not capture observed climate variability. The variations of the model performance have temporal scales and spatial patterns consistent with decadal/interdecadal climate variability. These results suggest that there are unmodeled climate processes that affect seasonal climate prediction as well as scenarios of climate change, particularly regional climate change projections. The reliability of these scenarios may depend on the time slice of the model output being analyzed. Therefore, more comprehensive model assessment should include a verification of the long-term stability of their performance.
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