PRUDENCE project summary

Problem to be solved:

European decision-makers in government, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and industry as well as the general public need detailed information on future climate. In this way it becomes possible to evaluate the risks of climate change due to anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases. Projections of future climate change already exist, but are deficient both in terms of the characterisation of their uncertainties and in terms of their regional detail. To date, the assessment of potential impacts of climate change has generally relied on projections from simple climate models or coarse resolution Atmospheric-Ocean General Circulation Models (AOGCMs), neither capable of resolving spatial scales of less than ~300km. This coarse resolution precludes the simulation of realistic extreme events and the detailed spatial structure of variables like temperature and precipitation over heterogeneous surfaces e.g. the Alps, the Mediterranean or Scandinavia. Simple models include, at best, a limited physical representation of the climate system.

Scientific objectives and approach:

PRUDENCE is a European-scale investigation with the following objectives:

  1. to address and reduce the above-mentioned deficiencies in projections;

  2. to quantify our confidence and the uncertainties in predictions of future climate and its impacts, using an array of climate models and impact models and expert judgement on their performance;

  3. to interpret these results in relation to European policies for adapting to or mitigating climate change.

Climate change is expected to affect the frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events, due to higher temperatures, an intensified hydrological cycle or more vigorous atmospheric motions. A major limitation in previous studies of extremes has been the lack of: appropriate computational resolution - obscures or precludes analysis of the events; long-term climate model integrations - drastically reduces their statistical significance; co-ordination between modelling groups - limits the ability to compare different studies. These three issues are all thoroughly addressed in PRUDENCE, by using state-of-the-art high resolution climate models, by co-ordinating the project goals to address critical aspects of uncertainty, and by applying impact models and impact assessment methodologies to provide the link between the provision of climate information and its likely application to serve the needs of European society and economy.

Expected impacts:

PRUDENCE will provide a series of high-resolution climate change scenarios for 2071-2100 for Europe, characterising the variability and level of confidence in these scenarios as a function of uncertainties in model formulation, natural/internal climate variability, and alternative scenarios of future atmospheric composition. The project will provide a quantitative assessment of the risks arising from changes in regional weather and climate in different parts of Europe, by estimating future changes in extreme events such as flooding and windstorms and by providing a robust estimation of the likelihood and magnitude of such changes. The project will also examine the uncertainties in potential impacts induced by the range of climate scenarios developed from the climate modelling results. This will provide useful information for climate modellers on the levels of accuracy in climate scenarios required by impact analysts. Furthermore, a better appreciation of the uncertainty range in calculations of future impacts from climate change may offer new insights into the scope for adaptation and mitigation responses to climate change. In order to facilitate this exchange of new information, the PRUDENCE work plan places emphasis on the wide dissemination of results and preparation of a non-technical project summary aimed at policy makers and other interested parties.