Our ability to model past climates does not guarantee future success

September 23, 2011, University of Leeds

(PhysOrg.com) -- New research from the University shows that past trends in climate must be very carefully understood before using them to model the future.

Climate scientists found that models are generally good at seeing past trends - but that there are important differences that must be recognised when predicting future patterns.

Researchers looked at these to examine their trends in the Arctic and the Tropics, and found that eight of the 11 models studied did a reasonable job of reproducing these trends. However, most models could not reproduce the 1920-1940 warming particularly in the tropics, and additionally the researchers found that the models often got similar trends for different reasons.

Ms Julia Crook, who led the study, said: "Models reproduced the Arctic and warming from a combination of forcings (e.g. carbon dioxide and particulate changes), feedback mechanisms (e.g. ice melt) and transport of heat in weather and ocean currents. When we looked at our results we found that the contribution from each term varied considerably amongst the models."

Professor Piers Forster, her co-author, added: "Although climate models agree on the past it is hard to say which model is best, and in the future their different set-ups cause their climate predictions to diverge from one another."

"For this reason it is vital that we use a range of models, and improve understanding of basic processes, if we are to refine our ability to accurately predict the climate patterns of the future."

The research is published as an editor's highlight in the September issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research.

Explore further: Impact Of Global Warming On Weather Patterns Underestimated

More information: Crook, J. A., and P. M. Forster (2011), A balance between radiative forcing and climate feedback in the modeled 20th century temperature response, J. Geophys. Res., 116, D17108, doi:10.1029/2011JD015924

Related Stories

Models look good when predicting climate change

April 2, 2008

The accuracy of computer models that predict climate change over the coming decades has been the subject of debate among politicians, environmentalists and even scientists. A new study by meteorologists at the University ...

The insides of clouds may be the key to climate change

February 17, 2007

As climate change scientists develop ever more sophisticated climate models to project an expected path of temperature change, it is becoming increasingly important to include the effects of aerosols on clouds, according ...

Modern physics is critical to global warming research

March 11, 2008

Science has come a long way with predicting climate. Increasingly sophisticated models and instruments can zero in on a specific storm formation or make detailed weather forecasts – all useful to our daily lives. But to ...

New observations and climate model data

August 12, 2005

For the first time, new climate observations and computer models provide a consistent picture of recent warming of Earth’s tropical atmosphere.

Recommended for you


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (3) Sep 25, 2011
past trends in climate must be very carefully understood, . . .

But were instead ignored when Big Brother started manipulating government science in ~1971 to unite nations against an imaginary threat of global climate change. See:

1. Video summary as "Big Brother" took control of science (1961-2011)

2. Professor Ian Pilmer's new book, "How to get expelled from school"


One of few politicians who understands the serious danger facing our formerly free society today, Václav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic wrote the Foreword.

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
Former NASA Principal
Investigator for Apollo
1 / 5 (1) Sep 26, 2011
since you feel like posting this same exact post on multiple threads i will do the same with my comments from before

so since ethelred called you out its now "big brother" and not kissinger and mao? were you hoping no one would notice you were wrong again? I've seen you do this multiple times now. Why not just admit you were wrong oliver?
1 / 5 (1) Sep 26, 2011
Back on topic:

This isn't surprising at all. Different models are written with different needs in mind. If you work for NOAA and you are mainly looking at ocean currents, then your model might have a simplified term that represents the jet stream, for example. If you work for the Department of Agriculture, and you're looking mainly at planting and harvest seasons, then your model might have a simplified term to represent the oceans. Not all models are meant to represent a full picture of the earth and models are sometimes used in ways they weren't intended. There are relatively few models designed to model the whole earth system at a relatively high resolution. If you don't need a model that requires time on a top of the line supercomputer, then it's better to make a model that can run on a lower class machine.

A good analogy might be automobiles. Not all automobiles need to be built like a Formula 1 car, nor do they all need to be able to carry 16 tons of cargo.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.