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Climate models are a success story, given that much of what they predicted has actually come true. Nevertheless, Reto Knutti points out in a blog post, researchers still need new models.
In 1950, meteorologists Jule Charney and Ragnar Fjørtoft joined with mathematician John von Neumann and other researchers to create the first computer simulation of the weather. Back then, it took 24 hours of calculations to forecast 24 hours' worth of weather. In other words, practically as soon as the paltry forecast was finished, reality had set in and rendered it useless. Today's weather forecasts are astoundingly good, often producing skillful forecasts up to a week in advance and designed to include extreme events. They are available on every mobile phone and everyone knows how to interpret them.
Climate - Models - Models - Progress - Today
Climate models are closely related to weather models; and they, too, have made amazing progress. Today they simulate air and ocean currents, sea ice, the biosphere, land, the carbon cycle and much more. They take into account thousands of feedback effects and climate processes, consist of a million lines of programming code, and produce petabytes of data—and these models are a success story in many ways. Many climate model projections have come true. It was on the basis of just such projections that policymakers decided we should limit anthropogenic global warming to considerably less than 2 degrees Celsius. But why, then, does this field require even more research and new models?
Decades ago, statistician George Box stated: "All models are wrong, but some are useful." And indeed, every model simplifies reality to some extent. For certain questions, this simplification is justified, while for others, the uncertainties are still great. One point in particular is that each model has a specific spatial resolution, or scale, beneath which no forecasts are possible. Nowadays climate models typically have...
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