MC3 - Evaluation of Earth System Models using modern and palaeo-observations

Event Dates: 24-25th September 2012
Location: Clare College, University of Cambridge, UK
Organisers: Dr Aideen Foley, University of Cambridge
ECTS Point Allocation: 2
Related Publication: Evaluation of Earth system models using modern and palaeo-observations: The state-of-the-art (2013) Foley et al

This mini-conference took place at Clare College, University of Cambridge, during 24-25 September, 2012.The aim of the conference was to bring together those with backgrounds in Earth system modelling, model evaluation and benchmarking, modern observations, and paleo-observations, in order to identify the key challenges in the evaluation of Earth system models, and furthermore, consider how they could potentially be met through coordinated research activities.

48 people, from countries including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia and the United States, attended this conference. Of this number, 32 were associated with the GREENCYCLESII (GCII) network; 17 Early Stage Researchers, 6 Experienced researchers, 8 supervisors. 16 attendees were external to the GCII network, of which 6 were early career researchers and 10 were senior scientists.

Over the two-day conference, 19 participants gave 30 presentations. On the evening of 24 September, a poster session with drinks reception was also held. Throughout the conference, there was plenty of opportunity for GCII fellows and external early career scientists to discuss their research with the more experienced scientists present. After the conference, invited speakers were invited to join a discussion to plan the associated conference position paper. Key conclusions emerging from the conference include:

1. Interactivity of processes, both in the natural system and in models. This needs to be considered when picking processes to evaluate and designing how they are evaluated.

2. Usefulness of information on different spatial scales. Models, data and processes cover a range of temporal and spatial scales, and there may be potential to relate information on different scales. For example, can we constrain permafrost processes at higher scales using site-scale soil physics?

3. Usefulness of both top down and bottom up evaluation. Model evaluation can be top down (beginning with global characteristics like climate sensitivity) or bottom up (beginning with site-level characteristics). Both approaches could be helpful to rule out unphysical solutions for the model (e.g. implausible values for climate sensitivity).

4. Formalization of metrics. Metrics are mathematical formulae and techniques. It is vital to be aware of their statistical properties in order to choose suitable metrics, and it is in the interests of more robust model evaluation to work closely with the statistics community and incorporate new methodologies.

5. Awareness of data/model mismatches. Data requirements for model evaluation and actual data available could be better reconciled. Data collection efforts could take into account what is most important for evaluation, and modelling could focus on key questions for understanding data.

The organizing GCII ER is currently drafting a review publication describing the state-of-the-art with respect to evaluation of Earth system models using modern and palaeo-observations, which presents these key conclusions. Contributions from invited speakers have already been received.


  1. Filipe Aires, Estellus, France – GC
  2. Alessandro Anav, University of Exeter, UK – GC
  3. Patrick Bartlein, University of Oregon, USA
  4. Callum Berridge, Vrije Universiteit, Netherlands – GC
  5. Ioannis Bistinas, Technical University of Lisbon, Portugal – GC
  6. Chao Ting Chang, CREAF, Spain – GC
  7. Sandra Chapman, University of Warwick, UK
  8. Peter Cox, University of Exeter, UK – GC
  9. Katherine Crichton, LGGE, France – GC
  10. Daniela Dalmonech, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Germany – GC
  11. Neil Edwards, Open University, UK
  12. Altug Ekici, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Germany – GC
  13. Georg Feulner, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany – GC
  14. Aideen Foley, University of Cambridge, Uk – GC
  15. Pierre Friedlingstein, University of Exeter, UK – GC
  16. Andrew Friend, University of Cambridge, UK – GC
  17. László Hunor Hajdu, University of Cambridge, UK – GC
  18. Sandy Harrison, Macquarie University, Australia – GC
  19. Peter Hopcroft, University of Bristol, UK
  20. Scott Hosking, British Antarctic Survey, UK
  21. Chris Jones, Met Office, UK
  22. Bethan Jones, University of Cambridge, UK – GC
  23. Trevor Keenan, Harvard University, USA
  24. Krista Kemmpinnen, University of Cambridge, UK
  25. Rozenn Keribin, University of Cambridge, UK – GC
  26. Mehera Kidson, LSCE, France - GC
  27. Jana Kolassa, Estellus, France – GC
  28. James Levine, British Antarctic Survey, UK
  29. Gerardo López Saldaña, Technical University of Lisbon, Portugal – GC
  30. Alex Marti-Donati, University of Exeter, UK – GC
  31. Maria Martin Calvo, Imperial college London, UK – GC
  32. Jorge Martinez-Rey, LSCE, France – GC
  33. Yanjiao Mi, VU University Amsterdam, Netherlands – GC
  34. Catherine Morfopoulos, Imperial College London, UK – GC
  35. Colin Prentice, Macquarie University, Australia – GC
  36. Aurélien Quiquet, University of Cambridge, UK – GC
  37. Howard Roscoe, British Antarctic Survey, UK
  38. Miral Shah, LGGE, France – GC
  39. Matt Smith, Microsoft Research Cambridge, UK
  40. Dominik Sperlich, CREAF, Spain – GC
  41. Paul Telford, University of Cambridge, UK
  42. Natalia Vazquez Riveiros, University of Cambridge, UK
  43. Guillaume Vilain, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany – GC
  44. Nicholas Watkins, British Antarctic Survey, UK
  45. Martin Wattenbach, Helmholtz Centre Potsdam, Germany
  46. Matteo Willeit, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany – GC
  47. Eric Wolff, British Antarctic Survey, UK
  48. Sönke Zaehle, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Germany – GC