EGU23-14755, updated on 09 Jan 2024
EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2024. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

A low-dimensional dynamical systems approach to climate ensemble design and interpretation

Francisco de Melo Viríssimo and David Stainforth
Francisco de Melo Viríssimo and David Stainforth
  • London School of Economics and Political Science, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, United Kingdom of Great Britain – England, Scotland, Wales (

Earth System Models (ESMs) are complex, highly nonlinear, multi-component systems described by large number of differential equations. They are used to study the evolution of climate and its dynamics, and to make projection of future climate at both regional and global levels – which underpins climate change impact assessments such as the IPCC report. These projections are subject to several sorts of uncertainty due to high internal variability in the system dynamics, which are usually quantified via ensembles of simulations.

Due to their multi component nature of such ESMs, the emerging dynamics also contain different temporal scales, meaning that climate ensembles come in a variety of shapes and sizes. However, our ability to run such ensembles is usually constrained by the computational resources available, as they are very expensive to run. Hence, choices on the ensemble design must be made, which conciliate the computational capability with the sort of information one is looking for.

One alternative to gain information is to use low-dimensional climate-like systems, which consists of simplified, coupled versions of atmosphere, ocean, and other components, and hence capture some of the different time scales present in ESMs. This approach allows one to run very large ensembles, and hence to explore all sorts of model uncertainty with only modest computational usage.

In this talk, we discuss this approach in detail, and illustrate its applicability with a few results. Particular attention will be given to the issues of micro and macro initial condition uncertainty, and parametric uncertainty – including external, anthropogenic-like forcing. The ability of large ensembles to constrain decadal to centennial projections will be also explored.

How to cite: de Melo Viríssimo, F. and Stainforth, D.: A low-dimensional dynamical systems approach to climate ensemble design and interpretation, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 23–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-14755,, 2023.