Climate Models

Climate models can provide useful information for climate adaptation planning. GLISA is committed to evaluating climate models to determine which models offer the most credible information for the Great Lakes region. This page is dedicated to providing detailed summaries and findings of our model evaluation work. Climate model information can be combined with other important sources of knowledge, data, and information to help practitioners prepare for future climate challenges and opportunities. One approach is through the use of scenario planning. Read more about GLISA’s scenario planning approach or view GLISA’s past projects that demonstrate how climate information can be integrated into adaptation efforts.


GLISA performs ongoing evaluation of global and regional climate models to determine which ones best represent the climate of the Great Lakes region so we can deliver the highest quality information to our stakeholders. Many climate models do not provide credible information for the Great Lakes region, because they poorly represent the Great Lakes and lake-land-atmosphere dynamics. However, there is a small set of models designed specifically for our region and new models coming online soon. GLISA’s Great Lakes Ensemble project tracks progress made in regional climate modeling by evaluating the representation of lakes and important lake-land-atmosphere processes and climate model biases. We also assess data processing techniques (i.e., downscaling and bias correction) and develop guidance for practitioners to use when choosing and/or using climate projections in their work. This page is dedicated to providing detailed summaries and findings of our model evaluation work. 

To date, GLISA has evaluated models from the following ensembles:

  • 40 GCMs from the Fifth Climate Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5)
  • 19 dynamically downscaled simulations from the North-American Coordinated Regional Climate Downscaling Experiment (NA-CORDEX)
  • 6 dynamically downscaled simulations from the UW-RegCM4 dataset
  • 12 RCM “families” driven by 23 CMIP6 GCMs from the High-Resolution Model Intercomparison Project (HighResMIP)

Climate Modeling Workshops

In 2019, GLISA co-hosted the first Great Lakes Climate Modeling Workshop with Ontario Climate Consortium (OCC) in Ann Arbor (MI). This workshop reviewed existing Great Lakes regional climate modeling efforts, shared preliminary results from relevant studies in Canada and the United States, worked to identify current gaps and uncertainties, and developed recommendations for future work.

With support from the NOAA Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Team and Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), GLISA will co-host a second Great Lakes Climate Modeling Workshop in March 2021.

GLISA plans to support future workshops and will share information about those here once available.

Climate Model Guidance

GLISA develops guidance for users choosing and/or using climate projections in their work. With the help of our Scientific Advisory Committee, GLISA published a set of model evaluation criteria to use when selecting climate models for the Great Lakes region.


Climate Model Buyer’s Guide



Climate Model Report Cards

GLISA is developing a suite of climate model report cards that provide technical information about how specific climate models are constructed and a performance evaluation of the models. The first phase of the report cards are now available and include descriptions of each model’s land, lake, and atmospheric components. This information can guide users towards models that best simulate the physical processes that matter most to their application (e.g., lake-effects, land processes, etc.). In the next phase, the report cards will also include information about temperature and precipitation biases, including lake-effect precipitation. 

View the Climate Model Report Cards



click to view

Climate Model Biases

GLISA evaluates climate model biases to better understand errors in the way the models represent our physical climate system. Our research focuses on the representation of important climate processes (e.g., lake-atmosphere interactions) and climate variables, including those used in lake level modeling. We also provide guidance on bias and bias correction.


Table summarizing seasonal temp & precip biases

Evaluation of Lakes in Climate Models

Depiction of climate model components showing the lake component typically resides within the land component.

GLISA evaluates the representation of the Great Lakes in climate models, because poor lake simulations compromise the quality of the information coming from the models. Many models do not include large lakes or lake-land-atmosphere feedbacks, or sometimes the Great Lakes are represented as a wet land type. GLISA looks for climate models that include 1-dimensional or 3-dimensional lake simulations that aim to better represent the influence of the lakes on regional climate.



Table of Great Lakes representations in CMIP5