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More accurate climate change predictions

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Monday, 20 June 2005

More accurate climate change predictions

They say ‘great minds think alike’ but the essence of large-scale integrated projects is to put the best minds – frequently from different disciplines – towards solving major scientific problems. One European project, called Ensemble, takes this grouping principle to the next level, assembling partners from all over the world to come up with more accurate predictions for climate change.
Predicting climate change – whether from natural or man-made causes – is notoriously difficult because of uncertainties in weather forecasting and problems with data reliability and key processes used, lament scientists. For the first time, thanks to European Union funding, a group of research teams spanning the globe will develop a common aggregated climate forecasting system covering various timescales and spatial spreads – i.e. regional, local, national.

More accurate climate prediction has a number of immediate and longer-term benefits. Scientists – and other users of the systems that the Ensemble projects aims to develop – will be able to forewarn authorities when there is greater risk of unnatural weather extremes, causing disasters, such as floods, landslides and avalanches. Farmers will be able to plan ahead for potential droughts or unseasonal weather that could damage crops. Policy-makers will be better informed about the environmental impacts of climate change, and act accordingly.

The Ensemble research consortium is made up of 70 partners from the EU, Switzerland, Australia and the USA who will spend five years and €15 million in EU funding developing what it calls an "ensemble prediction system based on state-of-the-art high-resolution, global, regional and whole Earth system models". Led by the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research at the UK Met Office, Ensemble (short for Ensemble-based predictions of climate changes and their impacts) will validate these models against current weather data to come up with more accurate forecasts of future climate aberrations – seasonally, over decades and even longer timescales.
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