Julie Arblaster: Earth System Models – tools for understanding climate variability and change

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Our future climate depends on both the inherent variability in the Earth’s biogeophysical system and the response of this system to the social, energy and economic choices that will be made. While much understanding of the climate system is gained through examining observational records, projections are based primarily on climate models since extrapolations or analogues from the past are unlikely to be a good representation of the future. These models are a mathematical representation of the Earth’s climate system and are based on basic laws of fluid dynamics and physics. In order to represent small-scale features, such as clouds, parameterisations have been developed, based on observed behavior or physical understanding, to represent these processes at the sub-grid scale within the models. While continually being improved and incorporating more complexity, current generations of climate models provide an impressive representation of the Earth’s climate system, generating variability in rainfall and temperature from daily to seasonal to decadal timescales with a great amount of skill.

This talk will give an overview and brief history of Earth System Models and discuss their use in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment reports. Recent research into the importance of the Antarctic ozone hole for Southern Hemisphere rainfall projections will also be discussed.

Julie ArblasterCentre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, Bureau of Meteorology.[subscribe2]

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