An assessment of the foundational assumptions in high-resolution climate projections: the case of UKCP09

An International Journal for Epistemology, Methodology and Philosophy of Science 2015:739. DOI: 10.1007/s11229-015-0739-8


The United Kingdom Climate Impacts Programme’s UKCP09 project makes high-resolution projections of the climate out to 2100 by post-processing the outputs of a large-scale global climate model. The aim of this paper is to describe and analyse the methodology used and then urge some caution. Given the acknowledged systematic, shared errors of all current climate models, treating model outputs as decision-relevant projections can be significantly misleading. In extrapolatory situations, such as projections of future climate change, there is little reason to expect that post-processing of model outputs can correct for the consequences of such errors. This casts doubt on our ability, today, to make trustworthy probabilistic projections at high resolution out to the end of the century.