A novel and effective computer software will enable scientists to study climate change in a thorough manner.
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 new model's advanced capabilities will help scientists some important questions:
What impact will warming temperatures have on the massive ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica?
How will patterns in the ocean and atmosphere affect regional climate in coming decades?
How will climate change influence the severity and frequency of tropical cyclones, including hurricanes?
What are the effects of tiny airborne particles, known as aerosols, on clouds and temperatures?
Two colour scales show sea surface temperatures and sea ice concentrations. The system also captures sea level pressure and low-level winds, including warmer air moving north on the eastern side of low-pressure regions and colder air moving south on the western side of the lows.
The CESM is one of about a dozen climate models worldwide that can be used to simulate the many components of Earth's climate system, including the oceans, atmosphere, sea ice, and land cover.
"Thanks to its improved physics and expanded biogeochemistry, it gives us a better representation of the real world," said NCAR scientist James Hurrell.
Scientists rely on computer models to better understand Earth's climate system because they cannot conduct large-scale experiments on the atmosphere itself.
Using the CESM, researchers can now simulate the interaction of marine ecosystems with greenhouse gases; the climatic influence of ozone, dust, and other atmospheric chemicals; the cycling of carbon through the atmosphere, oceans, and land surfaces; and the influence of greenhouse gases on the upper atmosphere.
This approach enables researchers to simulate global climate over years, decades, or millennia.
Such knowledge, Hurrell said, can eventually lead to forecasts spanning several years of potential weather impacts, such as a particular region facing a high probability of drought, or another region likely facing several years of cold and wet conditions.