Shop Windows to the Universe

Hands On Mineral Identification helps you to identify over 14,500 minerals! By M. Darby Dyar, Ph.D. See our DVD collection.
What’s in a global climate model? The Community Climate System Model (CCSM version 3) that is run with the supercomputer at the National Center for Atmospheric Research incorporates data about all of the natural processes shown in this diagram to simulate Earth’s complex climate system.
Click on image for full size

Global Climate Models and the Southeast Pacific

Global Climate Models (GCMs) are run on fast supercomputers as a way to better understand Earth's climate. Scientists are always trying to make these models better so that the results are more accurate. We know that climate is not the same everywhere in the world. There are some places where it is relatively easy to model the climate. There are other places where it is tricky to get realistic results from climate models. The Southeast Pacific, near the west coast of South America, turns out to be one of those tricky places!

Why is it so difficult to model the climate of the Southeast Pacific? There are lots of reasons. There are a lot of connections between the land, ocean, and atmosphere in that area. Climate models have many different parts: the ocean, the clouds, chemicals in the atmosphere, and so on. In some places, these different systems influence each other a lot. That means the overall GCM only works well if the connections between parts of the model are good. It is challenging to get all of those relationships right in the Southeast Pacific.

There are other things happening in the Southeast Pacific that make it difficult to model. El Nino and La Nina are influenced by the climate of the Southeast Pacific. These events are also connected, however, to places in the Western Pacific thousands of kilometers away and even to phenomena that occur in the Atlantic Ocean! Climate model connections that have to cover that much area are especially difficult for scientists to accurately describe and predict.

VOCALS scientists intend to improve modeling of the Southeast Pacific region. They want to make better models of cloud formation. They want to better understand how upwelling of cold ocean waters in coastal regions influences climate. They hope to get a better picture of the roles of aerosols in cloud formation, and they want to understand the extent to which different aerosols and low-level cumulus clouds reflect away incoming sunlight.

Last modified September 19, 2008 by Sandra Henderson.

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

Our online store includes fun classroom activities for you and your students. Issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist are also full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science!

Windows to the Universe Community



You might also be interested in:

Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

What Is Climate?

The climate where you live is called regional climate. It is the average weather in a place over more than thirty years. To describe the regional climate of a place, people often tell what the temperatures...more

Southeast Pacific Climate

The Southeast Pacific Ocean region off the coastal areas of Peru and Chile is one part of the world where stratus and stratocumulus clouds are frequently present. Other areas include the subtropical climate...more

Ocean-Atmosphere Coupling in the Southeast Pacific

There are many connections between the ocean and the atmosphere in the Southeast Pacific Ocean. Strong winds blow north along the coast of South America. These winds stir up the ocean. That brings cold...more

How Clouds Form

A cloud is composed of tiny water droplets or ice crystals that are suspended in the air. A series of processes have to happen in order for these water droplets or ice crystals to form into clouds in the...more

Ocean Upwelling

There are places in the ocean where water from the deep sea travels up to the surface. These are called areas of upwelling. The deep waters can have a large influence upon life in the ocean and the climate...more

Aerosols: Tiny Particulates in the Air

When you look up at the sky, you are looking at more than just air. There are also billions of tiny bits of solid and liquid floating in the atmosphere. Those tiny floating particles are called aerosols...more

Low Clouds

The low cloud group consists of Stratus, Stratocumulus, and Nimbostratus clouds. Low clouds consist of water droplets. The base of a low cloud is from the ground surface to 2000m....more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA