Climate Change Science Program Issues Report on Climate Models


The U.S. Climate Change Science Program has released the report ‘Climate Models: An Assessment of Strengths and Limitations,’ the 10th release in a series of 21 synthesis and assessment products (SAPs) managed by U.S. federal agencies. Developed under the leadership of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), this report – SAP 3.1 – describes computer models of the Earth's climate and their ability to simulate current climate change.

The SAP 3.1 report notes that ‘the science of climate modeling has matured through finer spatial resolution, the inclusion of a greater number of physical processes and through comparison to a rapidly expanding array of observations.’ The authors find that the ‘models have important strengths and limitations.’ The report assesses how well models simulate the recent observational period; it does not deal with climate change predictions.

The report documents the improvement in climate model fidelity over the past decade. As emphasized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, modern models faithfully simulate continental-to-global scale temperature patterns and trends observed during the 20th century. Despite this progress, a number of systematic biases across the set of climate models remain, particularly in the simulation of regional precipitation.

On smaller geographic scales, when compared against the current climate, the simulated climate varies substantially from model to model. The report notes that ‘an average over the set of models clearly provides climate simulation superior to any individual model’ and concludes that ‘no current model is superior to others in all respects, but rather, different models have differing strengths and weaknesses.’

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SOURCE: U.S. Climate Change Science Program

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