How accurate are climate models?

Article by Hazell Ransome.

Climate models have been making accurate predictions for the past 50 years [1] and have advanced significantly since then [2]. For example, the models used in a scientific report written by thousands of scientists in 2013, replicated observations of global surface temperatures with a 99% success rate [3]!

Nowadays models can make predictions based on a huge range of aspects of the climate system [4].

So will it ever be possible to make a perfect model?

Sadly not! Models can never be 100% accurate [5]. For this to happen scientists would need to understand and be able to simulate every aspect of the climate system [6] and know exactly how each and every one of us would act in the future which, without a crystal ball, is clearly quite difficult [7,8]!

However, a key point to realise is that climate models don’t need to predict the future to be useful!

Climate models are helpful because they give policymakers a range of possible future changes [9,10] given certain policy actions [11,12]. We’ll talk about this more in the next post!

References

[1]
https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/12/even-50-year-old-climate-models-correctly-predicted-global-warming (See: Paragraph 1… and whole article)

[2] https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/WG1AR5_Chapter09_FINAL.pdf (See: Executive Summary Paragraph 1)
ANDhttps://www.carbonbrief.org/timeline-history-climate-modelling

[3] https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/WG1AR5_TS_FINAL.pdf Technical Summary, IPCC 5th Assessment Report, 2018 (See: Box TS.4 Paragraph 2)
(20 climate models used https://pcmdi.llnl.gov/mips/cmip5/ for image)

[4] https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/WG1AR5_Chapter09_FINAL.pdf (See: Executive Summary Paragraph 1)

[5] https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/pdf/10.1098/rsta.2008.0169 (See: Section 3 Paragraph 1)

[6] https://scied.ucar.edu/longcontent/climate-modeling (See: Uncertainty: Scientific and Social First Part)

[7] https://ojs.unbc.ca/index.php/design/article/download/1723/1324 (See: Paragraph 2 and 3 section 5)

[8] https://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/pdf/10.1175/2009BAMS2607.1 (See: Partitioning uncertainty para 1)

[9] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959378016300681 (See: Abstract)
And https://www.carbonbrief.org/explainer-how-shared-socioeconomic-pathways-explore-future-climate-change (See: Introduction)

[10] https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10584-011-0148-z (See: Introduction paragraph 1)

[11] https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10584-011-0148-z (See: 3.3.1 paragraph 2)

[12]
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00382-012-1636-1(See: Summary and Conclusion Paragraph 4)

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