Earth system models are complex and represent a large number of processes, resulting in a persistent spread across climate projections for a given future scenario. Owing to different model performances against observations and the lack of independence among models, there is now evidence that giving equal weight to each available model projection is suboptimal. This Perspective discusses newly developed tools that facilitate a more rapid and comprehensive evaluation of model simulations with observations, process-based emergent constraints that are a promising way to focus evaluation on the observations most relevant to climate projections, and advanced methods for model weighting. These approaches are needed to distil the most credible information on regional climate changes, impacts, and risks for stakeholders and policy-makers.

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The authors acknowledge the Aspen Global Change Institute (AGCI) for hosting a workshop on Earth System Model Evaluation to Improve Process Understanding in August 2017 as part of its traditionally landmark summer interdisciplinary sessions (http://www.agci.org/event/17s2). NASA, the Heising-Simons Foundation, Horizon 2020 European Union’s Framework Programme for Research and Innovation under Grant Agreement No 641816, the Coordinated Research in Earth Systems and Climate: Experiments, kNowledge, Dissemination and Outreach (CRESCENDO) project, the ESA Climate Change Initiative (CCI) Climate Model User Group (CMUG), WCRP and the Department of Energy (DOE) all provided support for the workshop. The viewpoint presented here substantially draws on conclusions from that workshop. Portions of this study were supported by the Regional and Global Model Analysis (RGMA) component of the Earth and Environmental System Modeling Program of the US DOE Office of Biological & Environmental Research (BER) Cooperative Agreement DE-FC02-97ER62402 and Contract No. DE-AC05-00OR22725 and the National Science Foundation. NCAR is sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

Author information


  1. Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V. (DLR), Institut für Physik der Atmosphäre, Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany

    • Veronika Eyring
    •  & Bettina K. Gier
  2. University of Bremen, Institute of Environmental Physics (IUP), Bremen, Germany

    • Veronika Eyring
    •  & Bettina K. Gier
  3. College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK

    • Peter M. Cox
    •  & Mark S. Williamson
  4. Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

    • Gregory M. Flato
  5. Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison (PCMDI), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, CA, USA

    • Peter J. Gleckler
    • , Peter Caldwell
    • , Stephen A. Klein
    •  & Benjamin D. Santer
  6. Climate Change Research Centre and ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

    • Gab Abramowitz
    •  & Steven C. Sherwood
  7. Climate and Ecosystem Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA, USA

    • William D. Collins
  8. Department of Earth and Planetary Science, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA

    • William D. Collins
  9. University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA

    • Alex D. Hall
  10. Computational Earth Sciences Group and Climate Change Science Institute, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN, USA

    • Forrest M. Hoffman
  11. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA

    • Forrest M. Hoffman
  12. Department of Geographical Sciences, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA

    • George C. Hurtt
  13. Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences and Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA

    • Alexandra Jahn
  14. Met Office Hadley Centre, Exeter, UK

    • Chris D. Jones
  15. Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, NOAA, Princeton, NJ, USA

    • John P. Krasting
  16. Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique (LMD), IPSL, Paris, France

    • Lester Kwiatkowski
  17. Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

    • Ruth Lorenz
  18. Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA

    • Eric Maloney
    •  & Robert Pincus
  19. National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), Boulder, CO, USA

    • Gerald A. Meehl
    • , Angeline G. Pendergrass
    • , Benjamin M. Sanderson
    •  & Isla R. Simpson
  20. NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, NY, USA

    • Alex C. Ruane
  21. University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA

    • Joellen L. Russell
    •  & Ronald J. Stouffer


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V.E., P.M.C., G.M.F. and P.J.G. were the co-chairs of the AGCI workshop and led the writing of the paper. All authors participated in the AGCI workshop and contributed to discussions and writing of the text.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

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Correspondence to Veronika Eyring.

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