Some supercomputers can do more than 80 million calculations an hour! How fast could you do your math homework if you had a supercomputer?
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Courtesy of UCAR Digital Image Library
Modeling the Future of Climate Change
To figure out what the Earth might be like in the
future, scientists need to know how Earth reacts to changes. Models help scientists
to better understand how the Earth works and how it will react to climate
A model can help you understand how a something works. For instance, a model
airplane is a small version of a real airplane. You can look at a model airplane
from all sides to quickly understand what it is like. But it would be more difficult
to look at a real airplane quickly from all sides. In the same way, a model
of the Earth helps scientists understand more about the planet.
Unlike a model airplane, the models that scientists use to study the Earth
system don’t look much like a small version of the planet. Global climate
models use math to describe how the Earth works. Tons of math equations describe
everything from the oceans to plants
and animals. Supercomputers are needed to
do all the calculations. These speedy computers can sometimes do more than 80
million math problems in an hour!
What will the next century bring? According to scientists, it is likely that
temperatures will rise 1.8 to 4.0 degrees C (3.1 to 7.2°F) in the next 100 years
if we continue to let more greenhouse gases loose in the atmosphere. More warming over the next century would likely
cause many more changes to Earth.
Last modified September 23, 2008 by Lisa Gardiner.
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The Winter 2009 issue of The Earth Scientist
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