Computer models are an essential tool for understanding our present-day and future climate. Used to make projections of climate change, decades or even centuries, into the future, these models are increasingly used to guide government and community actions to address, and adapt to, the negative consequences of a changing world.
To help coordinate the development and improvement of these vital tools, the European Space Agency has been selected by the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) as the host for a new International Project Office, dedicated to supporting the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP).
Initiated by WCRP in 1995 and currently in its sixth phase, CMIP brings over 30 climate modelling centres from countries around the world into a single framework. The project enables scientists to validate models by testing how they perform against real-world observations and accurately simulate underlying climate processes.
The project enables scientists to validate models by testing how they perform against real-world observations. These comparisons help identify how models could be improved to better represent the climate and thereby give greater confidence to projections of future climate.
CMIP - International Project Office
The new CMIP International Project Office will be based at the agency’s European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications in the UK, which already hosts ESA’s Climate Office. Set to open in September 2021, the CMIP project office will provide support to technical and scientific planning and lead on international stakeholder engagement activities. This will include defining data policy, developments to provide timely, quality-controlled model output and analysis support to national and international assessments.
The need for a dedicated CMIP international office reflects the growing input of CMIP products to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment reports but also the growing worldwide participation from climate modelling groups and their widening use across the research community, in national and climate assessments, by climate services and increasingly, the private sector which requires such information to manage climate risk.
Hosting the CMIP Project Office at ESA strengthens the link between climate observation and modelling prediction communities, and supports a key recommendation from the most recent WCRP review.
Global climate observations
ESA is a major provider of global climate observations. Data from its satellites are used to generate accurate and long-term satellite-derived datasets for a suite of Essential Climate Variables that are used to characterise the evolution of the Earth system.
Developed as part of the ESA Climate Change Initiative, which involves a community of over 450 Europe’s leading Earth observation scientists, these satellite-derived datasets provide a key reference to validate climate models and are routinely used in association with Earth System Models to study drivers, interactions and feedbacks of climate change, and provide a key reference to validate climate models.
According to Susanne Mecklenburg, Head of the ESA Climate Office, “by hosting the CMIP International Project Office, ESA is demonstrating European leadership in supporting climate monitoring, analysis and prediction."
According to Detlef Stammer, chair of the WCRP Joint Scientific Committee, “by bringing the climate observation and modelling communities closer together the Office aims to contribute to help better understand past, present and future climate changes.”