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In the first article of a week-long series focused on climate modelling, Carbon Brief explains in detail how scientists use computers to understand our changing climate…

The use of computer models runs right through the heart of climate science.

From helping scientists unravel cycles of ice ages hundreds of thousands of years ago to making projections for this century or the next, models are an essential tool for understanding the Earth’s climate.

But what is a climate model? What does it look like? What does it actually do? These are all questions that anyone outside the world of climate science might reasonably ask.

Carbon Brief has spoken to a range of climate scientists in order to answer these questions and more. What follows is an in-depth Q&A on climate models and how scientists use them. You can use the links below to navigate to a specific question.


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While global climate models do a good job of simulating the Earth’s climate, they are not perfect.


Despite the huge strides taken since the earliest climate models, there are some climatic processes that they do not simulate as accurately as scientists would like.

Advances in knowledge and computing power mean models are constantly revised and improved. As models become ever more sophisticated, scientists can generate a more accurate representation of the climate around us.

But this is a never-ending quest for greater precision.

In the third article in our week-long climate modelling series, Carbon Brief asked a range of climate scientists what they think the main priorities are for improving climate models over the coming decade.

These are their responses, first as sample quotes, then, below, in full:


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