New climate model to be built from the ground up

Scientists and engineers will collaborate in a new Climate Modeling Alliance to advance climate modeling and prediction.

Facing the certainty of a changing climate coupled with the uncertainty that remains in predictions of how it will change, scientists and engineers from across the country are teaming up to build a new type of climate model that is designed to provide more precise and actionable predictions.

Leveraging recent advances in the computational and data sciences, the comprehensive effort capitalizes on vast amounts of data that are now available and on increasingly powerful computing capabilities both for processing data and for simulating the Earth system.

The new model will be built by a consortium of researchers led by Caltech, in partnership with MIT; the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS); and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which Caltech manages for NASA. The consortium, dubbed the Climate Modeling Alliance (CliMA), plans to fuse Earth observations and high-resolution simulations into a model that represents important small-scale features, such as clouds and turbulence, more reliably than existing climate models. The goal is a climate model that projects future changes in critical variables such as cloud cover, rainfall, and sea ice extent more accurately — with uncertainties at least half the size of those in existing models.

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