Quantifying Uncertainty in Predictions of Climate Change & Climate Impacts

Programme overview

Quantitative estimates of uncertainty are a key element of the user requirement for climate predictions, but the challenge of producing such estimates has received little attention.

Many current predictions simply represent uncertainty in terms of an ensemble of different model predictions, with no indication as to whether some predictions may be more trustworthy than others, or what is the actual likely range within which we should expect future observable quantities to fall.

All approaches to generating more useful estimates rely on bringing together models and observations. Statistical modelling plays a key role but there are many outstanding issues that require research.

Background & objectives

This research programme formed part of the NERC climate system and natural hazards themes and contributed to Living With Environmental Change (LWEC). It aimed to produce methods for quantifying uncertainty in predictions of regional and local climate change and climate impacts.

The problem of quantifying uncertainty is generic and important, as decision makers are developing policy on the basis of climate predictions, without adequate strategies for handling the significant uncertainties involved. It is also relevant to predictions of impacts, such as the effects of land use change on flood generation, ground stability or ecosystems.

The main objective of the programme was to:

  • Develop and test methods to combine observations and models to quantify the uncertainty in predictions of regional and local climate change, including changes in extreme events and climate impacts, especially for the next few decades.

The programme supported a collaborative research project 'End-to-end Quantification of Uncertainty for Impacts Prediction' (EQUIP) to address its objectives. The research brought together experts across a range of relevant disciplines and involved a broad network contributing to the project.

The programme ran a sandpit event to develop and assess the EQUIP project.

Reports & key findings

Sandpit outcome

£1·4 million of NERC funding was awarded to End-to-end Quantification of Uncertainty for Impacts Prediction (EQUIP). EQUIP brings together the UK climate modelling and impacts communities to work closely together for the first time on quantifying uncertainty and developing risk-based prediction for decision making.

EQUIP engages Living With Environmental Change (LWEC) partners and involves a range of networking with users.