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Research: Supercomputers Aid the Understanding of Global Climate Change

A DCSC case story, provided by Professor Eigil Kaas, University of Copenhagen

Global Climate or Earth System Models help us understand global climate change by simulating the behaviour of the atmosphere, oceans including sea ice, upper soil layers and the interactions between them.

It has been clear since their emergence in the 1950's and -60's that the quality of weather forecast models and climate models depend closely on the number of computational points utilised, and hence on available computer power. New generations of climate models, using advanced scientific computing, now also include a number of biogeochemical processes, including components for aerosol chemistry, and the oceanic as well as the terrestrial carbon cycles. These new ESM's are now considered to be state of the art tools for simulating and understanding fundamental features of the past, present, and future climates on our planet.

Danish researchers have a strong tradition for and interest in investigating Arctic climate variations and their causes. If sufficient computer power can be put together, it is anticipated that the Danish Center for Ice and Climate will use ESM's to understand socalled Dansgaard-Oeschger (D-O) events, which are abrupt climate fluctuations during the last ice age, as well as the importance of Arctic surface processes responsible for climate evolution during the present interglacial period - the Holocene.

Understanding what climate change is, and which part of it is not caused by human evolution and expanding global economies, is a precondition for future meaningful moves to changing the behavioural patens of mankind.

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