Can we predict what our climate might be like in the near future?

We can predict the weather about 10 days ahead of time, and climate projections look at how the climate will look like a hundred years from now. In between, we find a new field of science: climate prediction. A new publication describes how good our Norwegian Climate Prediction Model is at predicting the climate for our near future.

Predicting our Earth’s future climate is one of the most important tasks for climate scientists these days, but it is not an easy one. Many components affect the climate on our planet, such as the atmosphere, the ocean, sea ice, and so on. They all interact in complex ways. We need to better understand how our Earth is changing in the near future, since the impacts of climate change will continue to affect our planet. Modelling future climate is how we do that. 

 

Predicting the near future climate with models

For many decades now, climate scientists have been working on turning our knowledge on Earth’s climate into mathematical formulas to describe natural processes and confonting these with climate data from the past and present. The scientists who set the foundation for these efforts were awarded with this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics: Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann, and Giorgio Parisi. Their work, and the hard work of many others, made it possible to develop so-called climate models which allow us to peek into the future, both on long (climate projection) and on short timescales (climate prediction). Thanks to climate models, we can nowadays predict changes in temperature, rainfall patterns, and sea level due to melting glaciers, just to name a few examples. We can do that on global and regional scales, and on different timescales. Climate predictions addresses changes for the next season up to ten years in the future.

To figure out how climate predictions are performing for near future prediction, a global project, CMIP6 DCPP[1], has been initiated. The Norwegian contribution to this initiative is the Norwegian Climate Prediction Model[2] (NorCPM). It is unique and sets itself apart from other climate prediction systems because it uses something special – a data assimilation method called Ensemble Kalman filter[3] invented at NERSC.

Improving climate prediction will help us to know more about regional precipitation in the near future. This does not just affect the water level in reservoirs like Svartediket in Bergen, but also the availability of hydropower energy. Photo: © Henrike WilbornImproving climate prediction will help us to know more about regional precipitation in the near future. This does not just affect the water level in reservoirs like Svartediket in Bergen, but also the availability of hydropower energy. Photo: © Henrike Wilborn

 

Publication on NorCPM’s performance

The recently published article NorCPM and its contribution to CMIP6 DCPPanalyzes how well NorCPM works for time scales from one year up to ten years ahead. The authors also line out which steps need to be taken to further improve this system to produce even more precise seasonal-to-decadal climate predictions in the future. Several NERSC researchers co-authored the study: Yiguo Wang, François Counillon, Noel Keenlyside (UiB & NERSC), Annette Samuelsen, Helene Langehaug, and Leilane Passos (UiB & NERSC).  

 

Reference:

Bethke, I., Wang, Y., Counillon, F., Keenlyside, N., Kimmritz, M., Fransner, F., Samuelsen, A., Langehaug, H., Svendsen, L., Chiu, P.-G., Passos, L., Bentsen, M., Guo, C., Gupta, A., Tjiputra, J., Kirkevåg, A., Olivié, D., Seland, Ø., Solsvik Vågane, J., Fan, Y., and Eldevik, T.: NorCPM1 and its contribution to CMIP6 DCPP, 2021. Geosci. Model Dev. Discuss. 14, 7073-7116. https://doi.org/10.5194/gmd-14-7073-2021




[1] Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 6, Decadal Climate Prediction Project: It features a coordinate experiment based of retrospective prediction – every year from 1960 to present and run for 10 years for each -  so that one can robustly quantify the added value of climate prediction compared to standard climate projection and help to better disentangle the role of internal climate variability and response to anthropogenic forcing.

[2] NorCPM is developed by researchers from the Bjerknes Climate Prediction Unit and involves scientists from the Nansen Center, UiB, and NORCE. NorCPM contributes to CMIP6 DCPP, as well as to the WMO Lead Centre for Annual-to-Decadal Climate Prediction, and the Centre for Research-based Innovation Climate Futures. The WMO annual report for 2021-2025 is available online. Climate Futures helps Norwegian public agencies and stakeholders manage climate risk, e.g., in insurance, hydropower, agriculture, shipping, and the fishing industry.

[3] EnKF: Data assimilation method developed by Geir Evensen (formerly NERSC, now NORCE and NERSC).

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