New computer model for climate scientists

Wednesday 08th Sep 2010 by theWeather Club

Scientists can now study climate change in far more detail with powerful new computer software released by the National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). The Community Earth System Model (CESM) will be one of the primary climate models used for the next assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The CESM is the latest in a series of NCAR-based global models developed over the last 30 years. The CESM will be one of several climate models worldwide used to simulate aspects of Earth's climate system, such as the oceans, atmosphere, sea ice, and land cover.

"With the Community Earth System Model, we can pursue scientific questions that we could not address previously," says NCAR scientist James Hurrell, chair of the scientific steering committee that developed the model. "Thanks to its improved physics and expanded biogeochemistry, it gives us a better representation of the real world."

The CESM and its predecessors are unique among these models in that they were developed by a broad community of scientists. The new model's capabilities will help scientists shed light on some of the critical mysteries of global warming, including what impact will warming temperatures have on the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets? How will patterns in the ocean and atmosphere affect regional climates? How will climate change influence the severity and frequency of tropical storms? What are the effects of tiny airborne particles, known as aerosols, on clouds and temperatures?

"Decision makers in diverse arenas need to know the extent to which the climate events they see are the product of natural variability, and hence can be expected to reverse at some point, or are the result of potentially irreversible, human-influenced climate change," Hurrell says. "CESM will be a major tool to address such questions."