Thursday, September 13, 2012

Next generation of advanced climate models needed, says new report

National Academies of Science News: The nation's collection of climate models should advance substantially to deliver more detailed, smaller scale climate projections, says a new report from the National Research Council.  To meet this need, the report calls for these assorted climate models to take a more integrated path and use a common software infrastructure while adding regional detail, new simulation capabilities, and new approaches for collaborating with their user community.

From farmers deciding which crops to plant next season, to mayors preparing for possible heat waves, to insurance companies assessing future flood risks, an array of stakeholders from the public and private sectors rely on and use climate information.  With changes in climate and weather, however, past weather data are no longer adequate predictors of future extremes.  Advanced modeling capabilities could potentially provide useful predictions and projections of extreme environments, said the committee that wrote the report.  Over the past several decades, enormous advances have been made in developing reliable climate models, but significant progress is still required to deliver climate information at local scales that users desire.

The U.S. climate modeling community is diverse, including several large global efforts and many smaller regional efforts.  This diversity allows multiple research groups to tackle complex modeling problems in parallel, enabling rapid progress, but it also leads to some duplication of efforts.  The committee said that to make more efficient and rapid progress in climate modeling, different groups should continue to pursue their own methodologies while evolving to work within a common nationally adopted modeling framework that shares software, data standards and tools, and model components.

"Climate models are computationally intensive and among the most sophisticated simulation tools developed, and the 'what if' questions they help solve involve a mind-boggling number of connected systems," said committee chair Chris Bretherton, a professor in the departments of atmospheric science and applied mathematics at the University of Washington, Seattle.  "Although progress will likely be gradual, designing the next generation of models will require us to move toward unification and work more closely with the user, academic, and international communities."...

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