Models look good when predicting climate change

April 02, 2008

April 2, 2008 - The accuracy of computer models that predict climate change over the coming decades has been the subject of debate among politicians, environmentalists and even scientists. A new study by meteorologists at the University of Utah shows that current climate models are quite accurate and can be valuable tools for those seeking solutions on reversing global warming trends. Most of these models project a global warming trend that amounts to about 7 degrees Fahrenheit over the next 100 years.

The study titled "How Well do Coupled Models Simulate Today's Climate?" is due to be published this Friday in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. In the study, co-authors Thomas Reichler and Junsu Kim from the Department of Meteorology at the University of Utah investigate how well climate models actually do their job in simulating climate. To this end, they compare the output of the models against observations for present climate. The authors apply this method to about 50 different national and international models that were developed over the past two decades at major climate research centers in China, Russia, Australia, Canada, France, Korea, Great Britain, Germany, and the United States. Of course, also included is the very latest model generation that was used for the very recent (2007) report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

"Coupled models are becoming increasingly reliable tools for understanding climate and climate change, and the best models are now capable of simulating present-day climate with accuracy approaching conventional atmospheric observations," said Reichler. "We can now place a much higher level of confidence in model-based projections of climate change than in the past."

The many hours of studying models and comparing them with actual climate changes fulfills the increasing wish to know how much one can trust climate models and their predictions. Given the significance of climate change research in public policy, the study's results also provide important response to critics of global warming. Earlier this year, working group one of the IPCC released its fourth global warming report. The University of Utah study results directly relate to this highly publicized report by showing that the models used for the IPCC paper have reached an unprecedented level of realism.

Another important aspect of the research is that climate models built in the U.S. are now some of the best models worldwide. Increased efforts in the U.S. over the past few years to build better climate models have paid off, and according to the authors' measure of reliability, one of the U.S. models is now one of the leading climate models worldwide.

Although model-based projections of future climate are now more credible than ever before, the authors note they have no way to say exactly how reliable those projections are. There are simply too many unknowns involved in the future evolution of climate, such as how much humans will curb their future greenhouse gas emissions.
-end-
To view the full study on climate models, please visit: http://www.inscc.utah.edu/~reichler/publications/papers/Reichler_07_BAMS_CMIP.pdf

University of Utah Public Relations
201 Presidents Circle, Room 308
Salt Lake City, Utah 84112-9017
(801) 581-6773 fax: 585-3350
www.unews.utah.edu

University of Utah

Related Climate Change Articles from Brightsurf:

Are climate scientists being too cautious when linking extreme weather to climate change?
Climate science has focused on avoiding false alarms when linking extreme events to climate change.

Mysterious climate change
New research findings underline the crucial role that sea ice throughout the Southern Ocean played for atmospheric CO2 in times of rapid climate change in the past.

Mapping the path of climate change
Predicting a major transition, such as climate change, is extremely difficult, but the probabilistic framework developed by the authors is the first step in identifying the path between a shift in two environmental states.

Small change for climate change: Time to increase research funding to save the world
A new study shows that there is a huge disproportion in the level of funding for social science research into the greatest challenge in combating global warming -- how to get individuals and societies to overcome ingrained human habits to make the changes necessary to mitigate climate change.

Sub-national 'climate clubs' could offer key to combating climate change
'Climate clubs' offering membership for sub-national states, in addition to just countries, could speed up progress towards a globally harmonized climate change policy, which in turn offers a way to achieve stronger climate policies in all countries.

Review of Chinese atmospheric science research over the past 70 years: Climate and climate change
Over the past 70 years since the foundation of the People's Republic of China, Chinese scientists have made great contributions to various fields in the research of atmospheric sciences, which attracted worldwide attention.

A CERN for climate change
In a Perspective article appearing in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Tim Palmer (Oxford University), and Bjorn Stevens (Max Planck Society), critically reflect on the present state of Earth system modelling.

Fairy-wrens change breeding habits to cope with climate change
Warmer temperatures linked to climate change are having a big impact on the breeding habits of one of Australia's most recognisable bird species, according to researchers at The Australian National University (ANU).

Believing in climate change doesn't mean you are preparing for climate change, study finds
Notre Dame researchers found that although coastal homeowners may perceive a worsening of climate change-related hazards, these attitudes are largely unrelated to a homeowner's expectations of actual home damage.

Older forests resist change -- climate change, that is
Older forests in eastern North America are less vulnerable to climate change than younger forests, particularly for carbon storage, timber production, and biodiversity, new research finds.

Read More: Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.