Supercomputers may help predict climate changes locally

Aug 07, 2011 By Renee Schoof, McClatchy Newspapers

Even a century ago, scientists working out equations on paper understood that gases in the atmosphere absorbed and emitted energy, keeping Earth from being a ball of ice. Today they use supercomputers to make increasingly refined predictions about how the Earth's climate will change.

The new efforts take the question from global to local scale. Nations, states and communities have lots of climate-related questions: Should they divert water from one area to another? Build higher sea walls? Store and manage water the way Israel does today? Plan for many more 100-degree days in future summers?

"We can't answer those questions with the capabilities we have today. That's why we're using supercomputers to push the limits of what we understand and how well we can predict," said James Kinter. He's a professor in the Ph.D. program at George Mason University in Virginia and the director of the Center for Ocean-Land-Atmosphere Studies.

"We know with a high degree of certainty that the planet is warming up, and so just on average every place is going to be warmer," Kinter said. "But nobody lives on the average."

Scientists have used computer-generated models for decades to understand the past, present and future by studying the interaction of the oceans, atmosphere, land and ice. Kinter said today showed changes on a continental scale, but that faster computers would be able to make better predictions at regional and local scales.

Better computers should help with the difficult climate problem of . Clouds interfere with the flow of energy between the Earth and the sun in two ways, Kinter said. They reflect some of the sun's energy back to space, a cooling effect. But they also absorb and send back some of the energy that the Earth emits, just as gases such as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere do. That's a warming effect.

Recent models looked at the Earth as if it were covered by a grid of 2 degrees by 2 degrees, or boxes that were more than 19,000 square miles each, which is roughly half the size of Kentucky. The computer model sees everything within the box as being the same, but of course no clouds are that big.

Today's models are better. And scientists hope to have a computer that's 1,000 times as powerful as those today by the end of this decade. That still won't be robust enough to deliver models as precise as desired, but they'll be closer than today's, Kinter said.

Computers also are used to simulate how different types of particles, known as aerosols, scatter or absorb heat in different ways, and how the particles interact with clouds.

"When people say clouds and aerosols, that's shorthand for tough problem," Kinter said. "And representing all that quantitatively in the models is a real challenge."

Thousands of scientists around the world are working on better climate models. Kinter and his group focus on how predictable extreme events such as floods, droughts and heat waves will be as the climate changes.

Lawrence Buja, the director of the Climate Science and Application Program at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., said climate models had moved quickly from "Climate 1.0" to "Climate 2.0."

In Climate 1.0, the main issue was to prove that human-caused was happening. "For that we needed models developed over 40 years to understand and address this question," he said.

The last review of international climate science by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007 concluded that warming was "unequivocal" and primarily the result of human activities, mostly the burning of coal, oil and gas.

With that, Climate 2.0 began.

"Almost overnight, the question changed to 'What is the impact of this climate change on our human and natural systems?' " Buja said.

As computers improve, climate scientists can make increasingly better models, Buja said.

"We can do finer-scale modeling with more powerful computers and address these Climate 2.0 questions," he said.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research today hosts one of the world's top computers for climate models, used by Kinter's group and many other scientists. Next year a better computer will open in a new facility in Cheyenne, Wyo. The current site couldn't house the next generation of computing, Buja said.

National Center for Atmospheric Research and Department of Energy scientists' models were major contributions to the 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Buja said they now were finishing models for the next international review of , due in 2014.

"There's a huge economic cost of responding to this," Buja said. "We need to make sure we're presenting as convincing a case as we can."

It hasn't been easy. In the latest signal of distrust of computer models, Republicans in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives have put a provision in the foreign aid spending bill that would eliminate U.S. funding for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

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User comments : 21

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89118a
3 / 5 (8) Aug 07, 2011
OK great, more computer cycles wasted on the weather. But really, it's only weather! It's not like we can change it. Use the super-duper computers to improve my meds so they don't pop @ 86 degrees. POP! There goes one now!!! @*# damn it!
Vendicar_Decarian
2.4 / 5 (9) Aug 07, 2011
The time has come to start the extermination of the American Republican Plague.
Skepticus_Rex
4 / 5 (4) Aug 07, 2011
Hmmm... Vendi is about to earn himself his own personal FBI file.

In other news...I hope that they improve on the global models before they decide to start adopting them locally. Or, maybe it would be better to do the opposite and, then, take that local data to plug into the global models and see what comes out.

Could get as interesting as the recent University of Copenhagen Arctic ice study about to be published in Science.
Howhot
2.6 / 5 (5) Aug 07, 2011
I hope that they improve on the global models before they decide to start adopting them locally


The Global models are fine. It's just you guys aren't. Your arguments are weak and untruthful.
ryggesogn2
2.5 / 5 (8) Aug 07, 2011
ndi is about to earn himself his own personal FBI file.

A Marxist is president. Vedi probably has a 'people's medal' by now.

I toured NCAR in 1982. They had the best computer's then, too. GIGO.
Vendicar_Decarian
2.7 / 5 (7) Aug 08, 2011
"A Marxist is president." - RyggTard

And here I thought that Red Baiting went out with the Cancerous McCarthy Era.

Extermination is in order.
Skepticus_Rex
3.4 / 5 (5) Aug 08, 2011
I hope that they improve on the global models before they decide to start adopting them locally


The Global models are fine. It's just you guys aren't. Your arguments are weak and untruthful.


No. They aren't fine. There is quite a bit of discrepancy between them that is of concern. Have you never read AR4???

And, did you hear about the new University of Copenhagen study that will shortly be published in Science? If you didn't, it will shock your socks off. The study shows that the Arctic will not reach a tipping point even if the ice pack reaches as low as 50%! There is more but I shant ruin it for everybody who is unaware of the contents of this study.
XQZME
1 / 5 (4) Aug 11, 2011
Some people, like Vendi are slow to get the news. The Verona Project files declassified in 1995 showed nearly all those McCarthy accused were traitors to America. BOs Grandparents, Parents, Mentors, many Professors, friends, associates, and some Czars were/are members of the communist Party USA, or are Marxists or radical socialists.
Howhot
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 12, 2011
University of Copenhagen study that will shortly be published in Science

Oh you mean the one that shows N2O (Nitrous Oxide, Laughing gas) is also a dangerous green house gas with a heat trapping capability 1620 times that of CO2.

No SR your still full of BS. Chaos theory does limit how precise global warming models can predict into the future, but the overall models for the seasonal scale are very accurate. So your argument is just weak.

Howhot
4 / 5 (4) Aug 12, 2011
And to XQZME, the only "traitors to America" I've seen or know of are the republican trash class and tea party non humans. And guess what? I'm not a Marxist.

Looser trash.

Skepticus_Rex
1 / 5 (4) Aug 17, 2011
One thing is certain, 'Howhot', and that is that you are not very literate. And, for the record, NO2 is more potent a GHG than is CO2. But, it is nowhere nearly as potent a GHG as either SF6 and NF3, which are used to manufacture very common solar technologies. Many tons of those substances are floating around the atmosphere, and will be for thousands of years, contributing to warming these technologies were developed to help slow down and stop. How's that for irony? :)
Howhot
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 18, 2011
Your right Srex, I'm not very literate about rightwing or libertarian wing ideas because most of the time (as in almost always) they set of my crap detector. First their rejection of science when it is convenient is a slap a logic and deductive reasoning.

As a people, we decided the florocarbons where a danger to the ozone and banded them, but when CO2 appears to be building up to levels where it's heat trapping effect will have global consequences, nearly half the US population thinks the science is bad, or that scientist are in it for the money.

There is only one reason for that SRex, an effective propaganda campaign. That is pathetic situation we are in right now.
Skepticus_Rex
1 / 5 (1) Aug 18, 2011
So, what do you think about the fact that we are pouring many, many tons of gasses that make CO2 look like a walk in the park into the atmosphere to produce the majority of solar technology?

SF6 is slated for ban but has not yet been banned. NF3 is not even on the radar in spite of the fact that it is around 17,000 times (or greater under certain circumstances) more potent a GHG than CO2, molecule for molecule. And, unlike CO2, these gasses are believed to have a life of thousands of years.

You don't see some degree of hypocrisy in this?
Skepticus_Rex
1 / 5 (2) Aug 18, 2011
By the way, you don't still hold that pseudoscientific idea that we are going to turn this planet into another Venus, do you? I mean, you know it is physically impossible, right? :)
Skepticus_Rex
1 / 5 (2) Aug 19, 2011
Apparently 'deepsand' does not agree and also thinks that we will turn this planet into another Venus. As I said, it is physically impossible to make this planet into another Venus by burning fossil fuels. We not only do not have enough carbon on the planet to do it, we just do not have the means or capability.

The atmosphere of Venus is 96.5% CO2 (or, 965,000 ppm), but the atmosphere there is somewhere between 90 and 92 times the density of Earth's atmosphere, which atmosphere of Earth exerts 1 bar of pressure.

Another fact is that Venus, even though it has less of a percentage of N2 in its atmosphere than does earth, it still contains far more nitrogen than does the entire atmosphere of earth.

The above is why it is physically impossible for mankind to turn this planet into another Venus. If 'deepsand' is not convinced, simply look up the data. The truth is out there. :)
deepsand
4.3 / 5 (6) Aug 19, 2011
What I take issue with are your attempts at misrepresenting the statements of others.
Skepticus_Rex
1 / 5 (2) Aug 20, 2011
Show me where I have misrepresented the statements of others. Howhot stated elsewhere on this site that we are turning this planet into another Venus. Howhot wrote exactly that.

If Howhot didnt mean it, Howhot should not have written it. I have misrepresented nothing and merely asked whether Howhot still holds to the view that Howhot posted elsewhere. So, given that you one-ranked the question, I assumed that you disagreed with me that it is physically impossible for man to turn this planet into another Venus by burning fossil fuels.

Do you agree? Or, will you show agreement with the position that the earth will be turned into another Venus, like Al Gore implies in his video presentations, by one-ranking this post?
deepsand
4.3 / 5 (6) Aug 20, 2011
Show me where I have misrepresented the statements of others. Howhot stated elsewhere on this site that we are turning this planet into another Venus. Howhot wrote exactly that.

Citation(s) required.

... given that you one-ranked the question, I assumed that you disagreed with me that it is physically impossible for man to turn this planet into another Venus by burning fossil fuels.

I.e., you assumed facts not in evidence.

... will you show agreement with the position that the earth will be turned into another Venus, like Al Gore implies in his video presentations, ...

Misrepresentation.

... by one-ranking this post?

Non sequitur. The rating of the quality of your post neither depends on criteria dictated by you, nor signals that which you define.

In this case, you get a "1" for engaging in such sophistry.
Skepticus_Rex
1 / 5 (2) Aug 20, 2011
Citation(s) required.


You can search for them yourself. You may be a big boy so it will not be that hard. But, to humor you, here is one where Howhot states something about saving the earth from a "Venus heat disaster" and so forth.

To hell with the debt, save the planet from a Venus heat disaster.

http://www.physor...bal.html


As I said, the posts are around the site. Go look for them, if you really are interested, and don't ask others to do your homework for you. :)

Misrepresentation.


So, when Al Gore gives his presentations, and I have seen some of them when he has given them, and he has slides that show earth morphing into an image of Venus at the end, what is he then representing? Is that not implication, as I suggested? It is hardly a misrepresentation to call attention to the implication.

...quality...In this case, you get a "1" for engaging in such sophistry.

Quality is in the eye of the beholder. :)
deepsand
4.3 / 5 (6) Aug 20, 2011
Citation(s) required.

You can search for them yourself.

Your claim, your burden.

... here is one where Howhot states something about saving the earth from a "Venus heat disaster" and so forth.
To hell with the debt, save the planet from a Venus heat disaster.

Figurative speech.

As I said, the posts are around the site. Go look for them, if you really are interested, and don't ask others to do your homework for you.

Don't ask other to do your substantiation for you.

So, when Al Gore gives his presentations, and I have seen some of them when he has given them, and he has slides that show earth morphing into an image of Venus at the end, what is he then representing?

Once again, figurative, as opposed to the literal.

...quality...In this case, you get a "1" for engaging in such sophistry.

Quality is in the eye of the beholder

Yep; which is why you get another "1" for the above.
Skepticus_Rex
1 / 5 (2) Aug 21, 2011
Yep; which is why you get another "1" for the above.

Likewise... :)