The ENSEMBLES project (contract number GOCE-CT-2003-505539) was supported by the European Commission’s 6th Framework Programme as a 5 year Integrated Project from 2004-2009 under the Thematic Sub-Priority “Global Change and Ecosystems”.

The project aims to:

  • Develop an ensemble prediction system for climate change based on the principal state-of-the-art, high resolution, global and regional Earth System models developed in Europe, validated against quality controlled, high resolution gridded datasets for Europe, to produce for the first time, an objective probabilistic estimate of uncertainty in future climate at the seasonal to decadal and longer timescales
  • Quantify and reduce the uncertainty in the representation of physical, chemical, biological and human-related feedbacks in the Earth System (including water resource, land use, and air quality issues, and carbon cycle feedbacks)
  • Maximise the exploitation of the results by linking the outputs of the ensemble prediction system to a range of applications, including agriculture, health, food security, energy, water resources, insurance and weather risk management.


RT0 – Project Integration, management and promotion (John Mitchell: Co-ordinator, Paul van der Linden: Director)
RT0 is the ENSEMBLES Project Office and provides the overall co-ordination and management of the project. RT0 exists to:

  • ensure that the activities carried out by the various RTs are fully integrated towards a common purpose;
  • ensure that the project delivers the full benefits to the users and wider community;
  • provide top-level management (including the organisation of management board meetings and the submission of activity and management reports to the EC);
  • ensure that identified cross-cutting themes activities are actively co-ordinated across the RTs to avoid duplication and to integrate the inter-disciplinary results of the project in these areas.

RT1 – Development of the Ensembles Prediction Systems (James Murphy, Tim Palmer)
RT1 will build and test an ensemble prediction system based on global Earth System Models (ESMs) developed in Europe for use in the generation of multi-model simulations of future climate in RT2. This will include:

  • assembly and testing of Earth System Models;
  • testing of schemes to represent modelling uncertainties;
  • initialisation of models and construction and testing of methodologies for both seasonal-decadal and centennial prediction, based on a multi-model ensemble approach.

Methodologies for seasonal-decadal and centennial predictions will be provided by separate consortia but will be based on a unified approach to the representation of modelling and initial condition uncertainties in the ensemble design. The ensemble prediction system will provide the basis for the production and use of objective probabilistic climate forecasts within ENSEMBLES.

RT2A – Production of seasonal to decadal hindcasts and climate change scenarios (Model Engine Part 1) (Jean-François Royer, Erich Roeckner)
RT2A will produce sets of climate simulations with several models and provide the multi-model results needed in other work packages. These results will be used for validation (RT5), studies of feedbacks in the Earth system (RT4) as well as boundary conditions and forcing fields for regional model simulations/predictions (RT2B). Simulations will cover timescales ranging from seasons, to decades and centuries. During the first 2 years of the project the simulations will be performed using existing atmosphere-ocean-sea ice models; they will provide state-of-the-art benchmark multi-model simulations. After the completion of more comprehensive Earth System Models and their pre-validation as provided by RT1, other model components will be gradually introduced in the simulations to investigate their impact on climate predictions.

RT2A work will be organised in 2 phases:

  • A first stream concentrated in years 1 and 2 using existing coupled models and forcing fields selected in C20/C3M and IPCC
  • A second stream concentrated in years 3 and 4 using the earth system models and methods of ensemble generation provided by RT1.

RT2B – Production of Regional Climate Scenarios for Impact Assessments (Model Engine Part 2) (Daniela Jacob, Clare Goodess)
RT2B forms the second part of the ENSEMBLES Model Engine. Its principle aim is to construct and analyse probabilistic high-resolution regional climate scenarios and seasonal-to-decadal hindcasts. RT2B provides a vital link in the ensemble modelling system between ESM output from RT1 and RT2A and the RCMs developed in RT3, and the impact assessments to be carried out in RT6.

RT3 – Formulation of very high resolution Regional Climate Model Ensembles for Europe (Jens Hesselbjerg Christensen, Markku Rummukainen)
RT3 is responsible for providing improved climate model tools developed in the context of regional models but contributing to high-resolution modelling in general, first at spatial scales of 50 km at a European-wide scale within ENSEMBLES and later also at a resolution of 20 km for specified sub-regions.

RT4 Understanding the process governing climate variability and change, climate predictability and the probability of extreme events (Buwen Dong, Jean-Louis Dufresne)
RT4 will advance understanding of basic science issues at the heart of the ENSEMBLES project. Work will focus on the clarification of the key processes that govern climate variability and change and that determine the predictability of climate on timescales of seasons, decades and beyond. Particular attention will be given understanding linear and non-linear feedbacks in the climate system that may lead to “surprises”, and to understanding the factors that govern the probability of extreme events. Improved understanding of these basic science issues will contribute significantly to the quantification and reduction of uncertainty in seasonal to decadal predictions and projections of climate change.

RT4 will exploit the ENSEMBLES integrations performed in RT2A as well as undertaking its own experimentation to explore key processes within the climate system. It will link strongly to RT5 on the evaluation of the ENSEMBLES prediction system and will feed back its results to RT1 to guide improvements in the ESMs and, through its research on predictability, to steer the development of methods for initialising the ensembles.

RT5 – Independent comprehensive evaluation of the ENSEMBLES simulation-prediction system against observations/analyses (Elisa Manzini, Albert Klein Tank)
As its name suggests, RT5 will perform a comprehensive and independent evaluation of the performance of the ENSEMBLES simulation-prediction system against analyses/observations, including the production of a high-resolution observational dataset necessary to perform the task. The evaluation will cover all spatial scales and seasonal to decadal timescales in an integrated way. The evaluation will be performed fully independently from the ENSEMBLES system and will consider processes and phenomena, forecast quality, extreme events in observational and RCM data, and impact models when forced with downscaled ERA-40, hindcasts and gridded observational datasets. The analysis will include an assessment of the simulations of the climate variability in the model output made available by RT1, RT2A and RT2B and RT3. The investigation will be accompanied by a corresponding assessment of the observed variability using global observations data sets and a specially produced high-resolution data set for the European region. The analysis on the European region will focus in particular on extreme events both in high-resolution simulations and in the observations. RT5 will interact with RT4 in the studies and understanding of processes providing the evaluation of systematic errors and biases that will serve as a basis for RT4 investigations.

RT6 – Assessments of impacts of climate change (Andy Morse, Colin Prentice)
This Research Theme will try to answer a number of questions at the cutting edge of research into climate change impact assessment. There are 3 primary areas of effort:

  • The integration of process models of impacts on the natural world and managed global environment into Earth System Models.
    Existing ecosystem, crop and hydrological models will be used in offline and online mode. In online mode the ultimate goal is to integrate the impact models into the Earth System Models of ENSEMBLES so that cause and effect are coupled, and the impacts of climate change feedback to the atmosphere and climate.
  • Linking impact models to probabilistic scenarios of climate change.
    Activities in WP1.2, WP2A.3 and WP2B.3-5 all contribute to the development of probabilistic scenarios of future climate change within ENSEMBLES, which will quantify and incorporate the uncertainties in model predictions. WP6.2 will focus on strategies to utilize these approaches for the generation of probabilistic estimates of impacts. These strategies will incorporate the uncertainties in climate model predictions, and in the evaluation of impacts. The impacts of changes in mean climate and extremes will be assessed.
  • Maximizing skill in the impacts models driven by seasonal-to-decadal scale forecasting.
    Application models for a range of sectors will be driven using ESM and RCM output to make predictions at seasonal-to-decadal timescales. The application models can produce probabilistic predictions on seasonal-to-decadal timescales at regional scales.

The ENSEMBLES impacts groups working in RT6 will build on the experience of past EU projects such as DEMETER, ATEAM, MICE and PRUDENCE. Indeed, most of the groups working in RT6 have been involved in one or more of these four projects.

RT7 – Scenarios and policy implications (Sari Kovats, Francesco Bosello)
The purpose of RT7 is:

  • adopt scenarios of greenhouse gas emissions, land use change and adaptive capacity with and without greenhouse gas emission reduction policies; and
  • to test the sensitivity of these scenarios to climate change

The first aim will deliver input for the climate models (greenhouse gas emissions, sulphur dioxide emissions), the terrestrial vegetation models (land use) and the impact models (adaptive capacity). The second aim will use input from the climate models (temperature, precipitation, and so on) and the impact models (water availability, diseases, agricultural yields and so on).

RT8 – Dissemination, Education and Training (Martin Beniston, Christos Giannakopoulos)
RT8 represents the interface between the ENSEMBLES scientific consortium and a wider audience that includes scientists, stakeholders, policy-makers and the general public. RT8 will provide support to the ENSEMBLES community in the dissemination of results emerging from the RTs. This will be through internet-based information, published material and also workshops and training schools. These events will serve to highlight the key role of the EC in its support for this major Integrated Project. Education and training, via ENSEMBLES-sponsored “short courses” and the exchange of doctoral-level students between participating institutions will provide an appropriate means for information transfer on state-of-the-art methodologies, analysis techniques and models developed within the ENSEMBLES framework. There will also be provision for scientists from developing countries and Newly Associated States who could then adapt and apply the knowledge developed within ENSEMBLES to the particular conditions of their regions.