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Climate Change Adaptation Digital Twin: a window to the future of our planet

Destination Earth’s Climate Change Adaptation Digital Twin (Climate DT) represents a change in how information on climate change is provided, aiming to help face the complex challenges posed by our changing climate. Climate DT represents a pioneering effort to produce operationally multi-decadal climate projections. It leverages the latest scientific and technological advances, including the unprecedented computing power provided by the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking’s (EuroHPC JU) first pre-exascale supercomputers, including LUMI, in Europe.

The Climate DT will provide regularly updated, globally consistent Earth system and impact sector information at scales of a few kilometers, where many climate change impacts are felt. Moreover, Climate DT will provide climate projections more often, increasing the update cycle from 7-10 years to once a year or even more frequently.

The development of the Climate DT has been a collaborative effort through a wide partnership consortium and under a contract procured by the European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF). This partnership consortium involves leading climate centers, supercomputing centers, national meteorological services, academia, and industrial partners from six European countries, including CSC – IT Center for Science operating LUMI.

The role of Climate DT in addressing climate change

The urgency of the climate crisis has never been more apparent than in recent years, especially in the last months. We are witnessing the amplification of the climate crisis at an unprecedented rate. The Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) ERA5 reanalysis dataset starkly illustrates this, showing that the global mean temperature in 2023 was the highest since the start of the records (1940), and we have experienced a 12-month period with an average global mean temperature above 1.5ºC compared to the pre-industrial era. In this critical time, the Climate Change Adaptation Digital Twin (Climate DT) offers a unique and innovative approach to understanding and addressing climate change.

The European Commission’s Destination Earth initiative, or DestinE, aims to create a digital replica of the planet. It will have digital twins to simulate different parts of Earth’s system. The main goal is to help us respond and adapt to environmental challenges caused by climate change.

Climate DT will provide a new capability to determine the impacts of scenarios or policies on the climate system and relevant impact sectors at global, regional, and local scales several decades ahead using cutting-edge numerical simulations.

Enhancing local climate impact projections and adaptation strategies

The Climate DT represents the first effort to operationalize multi-decadal climate projections that will produce globally consistent Earth system and impact-sector information at local scales (of a few km) where many of the impacts of climate change are observed.

Snapshot of Climate DT video

Video: A satellite image of the future: a simulated satellite image for a period of 100 days (1 May to 8 August 2032) derived from one of the prototype projections of the Climate DT with IFS-NEMO (at 4.4km resolution for the atmosphere and land and 1/12 degree for the ocean and sea-ice), performed on the LUMI supercomputer. Such level of detail obtained now with km scale climate simulations was so far only available from weather prediction models. Video produced by Andreas Müller/ECMWF.

Importantly, these projections will be updated regularly and on-demand to address specific ‘what-if’ questions. This transformative capability will significantly enhance the level of support currently available to design adaptation measures. For example, it can assess climate impacts under several policy-relevant scenarios or create dedicated storylines of how recent extreme events with high impacts on climate-vulnerable sectors have been impacted by climate change and may unfold in different future climates. This potential for informed decision-making and targeted action is a ray of hope in our fight against climate change.

Read more about the Climate DT, its main components, and its features in the ECMWF article.

This article is a shortened version of the ECMWF article (link above).