This year’s (super) model: visualising atmospheric CO2

Here’s a superb high resolution supercomputer visualisation from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center of the flows of CO2 in the atmosphere around the planet. Apart from being beautiful to look at, it shows the major sources of CO2 emissions in the northern hemisphere, and the seasonal change in CO2 levels as the northern hemisphere summer plant growth makes the planet “breathe in”. All the major features of the flow of weather around the planet are shown in great detail. The visualisation was produced by a new very high resolution global climate model called GEOS-5. The NASA press release explains:

…the visualisation is part of a simulation called a “Nature Run.” The Nature Run ingests real data on atmospheric conditions and the emission of greenhouse gases and both natural and man-made particulates. The model is then is left to run on its own and simulate the natural behaviour of the Earth’s atmosphere. This Nature Run simulates May 2005 to June 2007.

It is a very high resolution model:

The resolution of the model is approximately 64 times greater than that of typical global climate models. Most other models used for long-term, high-resolution climate simulations resolve climate variables such as temperatures, pressures, and winds on a horizontal grid consisting of boxes about 50 km wide. The Nature Run resolves these features on a horizontal grid consisting of boxes only 7 km wide.

With high resolution comes the need for a lot of computing power:

The Nature Run simulation was run on the NASA Center for Climate Simulation’s Discover supercomputer cluster at Goddard Space Flight Center. The simulation produced nearly four petabytes (million billion bytes) of data and required 75 days of dedicated computation to complete.

More info — including a closer look at some parts of the globe — here.

[Mr Costello & His Attractions]

Little Whyte Bull

Late last week, New Zealand’s far right ACT party was pleased to let the media know that its leader, Jamie Whyte, had won the “prestigious Institute of Economic Affairs’ Seldon1 Award” — an award given to IEA fellows by the IEA for work published by the IEA. Whyte is an IEA fellow, which may (or may not) be prestigious in itself — the IEA is the grandaddy of British free-market “think tanks” — but the award appears to be little more than a bit of mutual backslapping. Whyte won for a paper published last year entitled Quack Policy – Abusing Science in the Cause of Paternalism (pdf), in which he sets out to show that “much ‘evidence-based policy’ is grounded on poor scientific reasoning and even worse economics”. Unfortunately, in his discussion of climate science in the paper, he shows an incredibly poor understanding of what the science actually says, and an even worse appreciation of its implications for humanity.

Continue reading “Little Whyte Bull”

  1. Not this Seldon, sadly. []

Gavin Schmidt, supermodeller: the emergent patterns of climate change

In this new TED talk, Gavin Schmidt, NASA climate modeller and juggler extraordinaire, talks about the climate system, how we use models, how they’re put together, and how the great swirls of earth’s atmosphere emerge from a million lines of Fortran code. It’s a great exposition, and the graphics he calls up in support are magnificent.

A lecture not to miss

Tim Naish’s lecture, of which we gave notice recently, is now recorded on the Climate Change Research Institute’s website. I warmly recommend it for viewing. Naish is one of the lead authors for the paleoclimate chapter for working group 1 of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report due in 2013. In this lecture he uses paleoclimate material to provide perspective for the projections of rising global temperature and climate change. We are headed for climates and temperatures that haven’t been seen on the planet for more than a million years and the paleoclimate record helps us to understand what we might expect in terms of polar ice behaviour and sea level rise.

In fact we have to go back 3 million years – to the mid-Pliocene –  before we see temperatures like those the models are projecting, 2 to 3 degrees warmer by 2100. The atmospheric CO2 level then was about 400 parts per million. This Pliocene warm period is becoming an important window into what we might expect incoming decades. Continue reading “A lecture not to miss”

La modélisation du climat

A little bit of French language practise for the weekend — an excellent visualisation of how climate models work, produced by the Institut Pierre Simon Laplace, the leading French modelling group. Even if you can’t follow the commentary, the images are pretty much self-explanatory and very nicely done. There are more animations at the DSM Youtube channel.

Hat tip to Steve Easterbrook, who has a version with English subtitles, but we don’t need those, do we? 😉