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
What Is a Climate Model?
Global climate models use math - alot of math - to describe how the Earth works. They include math calculations about how the air, water, land, living things, and ice on Earth affect climate. They include math calculations about how the Sun's rays affects Earth's climate. Scientists use global climate models to better understand how changes like more greenhouses gases or less sea ice will affect our planet. With the models they look hundreds of years into the future to predict how our planet’s climate will likely change.
There are various types of climate models. Some focus on certain things that affect climate such as the atmosphere or the oceans. Others model the entire Earth. Their math calculations take into account as many parts of the planet as they can. Earth is a complex place and so many of these models are very complex too. They include so many math calculations that they must be run on supercomputers, giant and speedy computers which can do the calculations quickly. All climate models must make some assumptions about how the Earth works, but in general, the more complex a model, the more factors it takes into account, and the fewer assumptions it makes. At the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), researchers work with complex models of Earth's climate. Their largest model is so complex that it makes about three trillion math calculations to simulate a single day on planet Earth. It can take thousands of hours for the supercomputer to run the model. The model output is analyzed by researchers and compared with other model results and with observations.
There are currently several other complex global climate models that are used to predict future climatic change. The most robust models are compared to help us understand future climate change.
Last modified July 18, 2007 by Lisa Gardiner.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
The Summer 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist
, available in our online store
, includes articles on rivers and snow, classroom planetariums, satellites and oceanography, hands-on astronomy, and global warming.
You might also be interested in:
How do you know to pack your bathing suit and sunhat for a trip to a tropical island or pack warm sweaters and coats for a trip to Alaska? If you know a little about regional climates, then you know what...more
Earth’s climate is getting warmer. During the past 100 years Earth’s average temperature rose about 0.6° Celsius (1.0° F). Things that people are doing like burning fossil fuels, changing the way land...more
How will Earth’s climate change in the future? Scientists use climate models to figure that out. But how do they know whether the predictions are correct? How do they figure out whether the model is doing...more
Computers have become a normal part of life. They are used to send e-mail, write a school report or look up recipes. They are used to crunch the latest baseball stats and deliver phone calls to the right...more
Antarctica is a cold place. If you were to go visit, you would need a thick winter coat, hat, and mittens. However, along the coast, in an area called the Antarctic Peninsula, it has been getting...more
Some science problems are so complicated that you need SUPERCOMPUTING power to tackle them! Just what is a supercomputer? A supercomputer is a computer that is one of the fastest or most powerful computers...more
Scientists must work very hard! It will take time for them to understand the information they collected during VOCALS. They must study the measurements and use them to improve their models of clouds,...more