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The CMIP multi-model ensemble is the primary resource by which we can analyse and predict climate change. Due both to our lack of understanding of the climate system, and limitations of computational power, these models are far from perfect, and there is much debate and uncertainty over the use and interpretation of the ensemble. Here we will discuss some underlying principles underlying the interpretation and assessment of climate model ensembles. We argue for a new perspective on the ensemble, and demonstrate that its performance is rather better than has often been previously assumed.