How do climate models work?

Article by Hazell Ransome.

Climate models are used to predict how the climate will change in the future [1].

But what is the climate?

The climate is a system which involves the atmosphere, oceans, ice, soil, and all living things on Earth [2]. It changes constantly due to interactions between these different parts within the climate system [2,3] e.g. trees releasing water into the atmosphere leading to increased rainfall in those areas [4].

The climate can also be forced to change by adding outside “forcings” [2] such as volcanic eruptions [5] or increased CO 2 emissions [6] .

Climate models make predictions by simulating these interactions, feedbacks and forcings [7]. To do this scientists must represent these processes using complex scientific equations [8,9,10]. For example, some equations will be based on balancing the energy [9,10] from the sun with the energy absorbed or reflected by the earth and atmosphere [11].

Climate scientists make future predictions using their climate models by putting expected values of CO 2 emissions and other variables into the equations [12].


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