Universty High in LA – Can we trust climate models?

November 17th, 2005 by David

    Today I talked at University High School (it’s a high school, not a University) in West Los Angeles. The teacher, Mr. Ransom, who has masters in physics and has used computer models, argued that our models of the climate are simply not good enough to act on. He does not trust them.

University High Students in L.A.
Mr. Ransom

   Can we trust these computer models predicting future warming? These models break the world into a grid, use basic physical equations, and figure out weather in every cell for the course of a year for many centuries.
   While these complicated models are not good at simulating some aspects of the climate (tropical rain patterns and the effects of sea ice, for example), they can generally reproduce the current climate of the planet. Most impressively, we can well simulate changes in temperature over the past century, giving us confidence that we do understand how the world’s climate works. In 2001, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which reviewed all current climate science, decided that these models were good enough to make predictions, and the models have improved since then. While Mr. Ransom may have been correct a decade or more ago, I don’t think he is correct any more.
    This is why I feel I can make claims about California’s future—the science is good. To see a better defense of climate models, click here. To run a simple one on your own computer, click here.

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