New Climate Model Predicts Faster Warming

Global warming may be happening faster than previously estimated, with temperatures rising 4.7 degrees instead of 3.6 degrees in the coming century — a seemingly small difference with potentially enormous consequences. This week, the National Center for Atmospheric Research released version three of its Community Climate System Model, created by four supercomputing centers in the United States and Japan. Creating a model that predicts climate change takes an extraordinary amount of computing power; modeling a single day takes 3 trillion computer calculations, and the CCSM3 has already generated 20 trillion bytes of data over the course of 7.5 million hours of concurrent computer processor time. Even with such massive data-crunching, the model is able to predict only broad trends, nothing at the state or local level. The best that can be said about the latest step in this vital work — upon which most climate science, and thus policy, is based — is that, as climatologist Clifford Jacobs puts it, “the degree of uncertainty has narrowed.”