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New computer model promises detailed picture of worldwide climate

BOULDERCapping two years of research, a nationwide group of over 100 scientists has created a powerful new computer model of the Earth's climate. The model surpasses previous efforts by successfully incorporating the impact of such variables as ocean currents and changes in land-surface temperatures.

Researchers will use the model, called CCSM-2 (Community Climate System Model, version 2) to probe how our climate works and to experiment with "what-if" scenarios to predict what our climate may be like in the future. The model will also look at past climate. For example, researchers plan to perform an extended, multicentury simulation of past shifts in the climate's equilibrium.

The model's increased capabilities will permit new types of studies, such as the "Flying Leap Experiment," which will track fossil fuel carbon emissions as they are dissolved in the oceans and subsequently released back into the atmosphere.

Jeffrey Kiehl, a key leader in development of the model at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, expects the CCSM-2 to play an integral role in the next climate assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the international organization that issues periodic assessments of global climate change.

Based at NCAR, the model is funded by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy.

"The model is better [than its earlier version] at simulating phenomena with worldwide climate implications, such as El Nio," says Kiehl. "The new version has higher spatial resolution in both oceans and sea ice, and the atmosphere is represented by a larger number of vertical layers."

To achieve the extensive modifications in the latest version, which was released last month, scientists applied the model to specific problems. For example, they weighed the climatic impacts of past volcanic eruptions, fluctuations in ocean salinity, changes in land vegetation, and the thickness of sea ice
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Contact: Anatta
anatta@ucar.edu
303-497-8604
National Center for Atmospheric Research/University Corporation for Atmospheric Research
1-Jul-2002


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