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Modeling Climate

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ModelingClimate
Whatisclimateandwhydowemodelit?
Climatereferstotheaverageofw eatherconditions.Itvariesontimescales rangingfromseasonaltocentennial.Fluctuationsresultnaturallyfrom interactionsbetw eentheocean,theatmosphere,theland,cryosphere(frozen portionoftheEarth'ssurface),andchangesintheEarth'senergybalance resultingfromvolcaniceruptionsandvariationsinthesun'sintensity.Sincethe IndustrialRevolutionsignificantchangesinradiativeforcing(Earth'sheatenergy balance)haveresultedfromthebuildupofgreenhousegasesandtrace constituents.Theimpactsontheplanetoftheseanthropogenicallyinducedor manmadechangestotheenergybudgethavebeendetectedandareprojected tobecomeincreasinglymoreimportantduringthenextcentury. Computermodelsofthecoupledatmospherelandsurfaceoceanseaice systemareessentialscientifictoolsforunderstandingandpredictingnaturaland humancausedchangesinEarth'sclimate.

Howdowemodelclimate?
Climatemodelsaresystemsofdifferentialequationsderivedfromthebasiclaw s ofphysics,fluidmotion,andchemistryformulatedtobesolvedonsupercomputers. Forthesolutiontheplanetiscoveredbya3dimensionalgrid

Figure1:ClimateVariability: HovmoellerModel. Anewglobalcoupledclimate modelcanpredictseasonalto interannualvariabilityoverthe Pacific.Observationsareonthe left,andpredictionswiththe coupledmodelareontheright.

Figure2:SeaIceThickness(10 yearaverage) SeaIcethickness(in centimeters)overtheArctic.A modelprojectionofthepackice forthe2050s(right)showsa substantialdecreaseinseaice thicknessoverpresentera(left).

tow hichthebasicequationsareappliedandevaluated.Ateachgridpoint,e.g. fortheatmosphere,themotionoftheair(w inds),heattransfer (thermodynamics),radiation(solarandterrestrial),moisturecontent(relative humidity)andsurfacehydrology(precipitation,evaporation,snow meltand runoff)arecalculatedasw ellastheinteractionsoftheseprocessesamong neighboringpoints.Thecomputationsaresteppedforw ardintimefromseasons tocenturiesdependingonthestudy. Stateoftheartclimatemodelsnow includeinteractiverepresentationsofthe ocean,theatmosphere,theland,hydrologicandcryosphericprocesses,

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Modeling Climate ocean,theatmosphere,theland,hydrologicandcryosphericprocesses, terrestrialandoceaniccarboncycles,andatmosphericchemistry.


Theaccuracyofclimatemodelsislimitedbygridresolutionandourabilityto describethecomplicatedatmospheric,oceanic,andchemicalprocesses mathematically.MuchoftheresearchinOARisdirectedatimprovingthe representationoftheseprocesses.Despitesomeimperfections,modelssimulate remarkablyw ellcurrentclimateanditsvariability.Morecapablesupercomputers enablesignificantmodelimprovementsbyallow ingformoreaccurate representationofcurrentlyunresolvedphysics.

Figure3:MaximumOzone Concentrationnearthesurface producedbyAsianPollution

Phenomenaofinterest
ClimateVariability
Modelsareanessentialtoolforunderstandingcurrent climate,e.g.theannualcycle,ElNio,andotherformsof naturalvariability.Improvedunderstandingandbetter modelstranslatedirectlyintobetteroperationalseasonal forecastingattheClimatePredictionCenteroftheNational WeatherServiceandtheInternationalResearchInstitute forClimatePrediction.HovmoellerModel(Figure1)
Figure4:SimulationofIceAge Climate Climatemodelscansimulate temperaturechangesnotonly overthelastcenturybutalsofor climateduringanIceAge.

GreenhouseWarming
Climatemodelsaretheonlymeanstoestimatetheeffects ofincreasinggreenhousegasesonfutureglobalclimate. TheAdministration'sclimateprogramwillusemodel studiestoexaminetheimpactsoftechnologicalmitigation scenariosonreducingtheimpactsofclimatechange.Sea

Figure5a:OceanCirculation Surfaceoceancurrentsina modeloftheoceancirculationin thesouthernhemisphere.High horizontalresolution(1/6degree, right)simulatesoceaneddies morerealisticallythanlow resolution(1degree,left). FLCanimation(63Mb)

IceThickness(Figure2) AtmosphericChemistry
Modelsarebeingusedtoinvestigatetheatmospheric circulationandassociatedchemicalinteractionswhich resultinglobalwarmingandairpollution.Forexample, recentresearchwithgeneralcirculationmodelshasshown thatpollutionproducedoverAsiacanbetransported acrossthePacificintoNorthAmerica.MaximumAsian

ImpactOnOzone(Figure3) Paleoclimates
Acredibilitytestformodelsistheirabilitytosimulatepast climaticperiods,e.g.CretaceousandtheLastGlacial Maximumwhichrepresentabnormallywarmandcold climatesrespectively.Modelsarealsoruntosimulatethe effectsofrecentvolcaniceruptionstotestatmospheric chemistrycirculationinteractions.Volcaniceruptionsarea significantfactorincurrentandpastclimatevariability.

Figure5b:Eddies Eddieshaveaprofoundeffecton oceanmixingprocesses.Models hereatGFDLhaveimproved modelresolutiontoresolve smallereddies,whichprevious modelscouldnotdo. AVIAnimation(29Mb)

ClimateModelProjection(Figure4) OceanCirculation
Oceanicmodelsareusedforinvestigationsintothe dynamicsofthelargescaleoceangeneralcirculationin ordertogainafundamentalunderstandingoftheocean's roleintheearth'sclimatesystem,globalbiogeochemical cyclesandecosystemdynamics.OceanCirculation (Figure5a)andSurfaceHeight(Eddies)(Figure5b)

ClimateandExtremeEvents
Highresolutionmodelsarebeingusedtoinvestigate

Figure6a:GlobalMesoscale CirculationatGFDL Simulationofweathersystemsin aglobalmodelwithexplicit convectionandahorizontal

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Highresolutionmodelsarebeingusedtoinvestigate mesoscalestorms(Figure6a),thelinksbetweenthese andmeanstormtracks,hurricanes(Figure6b)andthe impactsofclimateonthese.Thesamehurricanemodel usedatGFDLforclimatestudiesisbeingutilizedbythe NWSandtheNavyforoperationalhurricaneforecasting.

Modeling Climate

convectionandahorizontal resolutionof1012km.

Figure6b:Hurricane Hurricanemodelimbedded withinaglobalforecastmodel.In aclimatewithenhancedCO2 emissions,elevated temperaturesandhumidity provideadditionalenergyfor stormstostrengthen.Wind speedsincreasebyabout10% inthestrongeststorms,and thereisuptoa28%increasein nearstormrainfall.

NOAAResearchprogramsthatUtilizeorSupportClimateModeling
GeophysicalFluidDynamicsLaboratory(GFDL) ClimateProgramOffice(CPO) EarthSystemResearchLaboratory(ESRL)
NEXTObservingClimateVariabilityandChange

UpdatedMarch7,2011

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