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Journal Article

How large does a large ensemble need to be

MPS-Authors
/persons/resource/persons198606

Milinski,  Sebastian
Director’s Research Group OES, The Ocean in the Earth System, MPI for Meteorology, Max Planck Society;

/persons/resource/persons220984

Maher,  Nicola
Director’s Research Group OES, The Ocean in the Earth System, MPI for Meteorology, Max Planck Society;

/persons/resource/persons198616

Olonscheck,  Dirk
Director’s Research Group OES, The Ocean in the Earth System, MPI for Meteorology, Max Planck Society;

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esd-11-885-2020.pdf
(Publisher version), 6MB

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Citation

Milinski, S., Maher, N., & Olonscheck, D. (2020). How large does a large ensemble need to be. Earth System Dynamics, 11, 885-901. doi:10.5194/esd-11-885-2020.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0006-8914-9
Abstract
Initial-condition large ensembles with ensemble sizes ranging from 30 to 100 members have become a commonly used tool to quantify the forced response and internal variability in various components of the climate system. However, there is no consensus on the ideal or even sufficient ensemble size for a large ensemble. Here, we introduce an objective method to estimate the required ensemble size that can be applied to any given application and demonstrate its use on the examples of global mean surface temperature, local surface temperature and precipitation and variability in the ENSO region and central America. Where possible, we base our estimate of the required ensemble size on the pre-industrial control simulation, which is available for every model. First, we determine how much of an available ensemble size is interpretable without a substantial impact of resampling ensemble members. Then, we show that more ensemble members are needed to quantify variability than the forced response, with the largest ensemble sizes needed to detect changes in internal variability itself. Finally, we highlight that the required ensemble size depends on both the acceptable error to the user and the studied quantity.