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Scientists extensively use mathematical models of Earth’s climate, executed on the most powerful computers available, to examine hypotheses about past and present-day climates. Development of climate models is fully consistent with approaches being taken in many other fields of science dealing with very complex systems. These climate simulations provide a framework within which enhanced understanding of climate-relevant processes, along with improved observations, are merged into coherent projections of future climate change. This report describes the models and their ability to simulate current climate.
The science of climate modeling has matured through finer spatial resolution, the inclusion of a greater number of physical processes, and comparison to a rapidly expanding array of observations. These models have important strengths and limitations. They successfully simulate a growing set of processes and phenomena; this set intersects with, but does not fully cover, the set of processes and phenomena of central importance for attribution of past climate changes and the projection of future changes. Following is a concise summary of the information in this report, organized around questions from the “Prospectus,” which motivated its preparation, and focusing on these strengths and weaknesses.