Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Introduction to Climate Prediction

Jamais Cascio of World Changing points to a flash-based tutorial on the Basics of Climate Predictions from Oxford University’s Begbroke Science Park in collaboration with the world’s largest climate prediction experiment.. If you are interested in learning how scientists make predictions about our future climate then this tutorial is for you. This would also make an excellent teaching tool. Teachers should refer to the schools section on the website for related teaching resources.

The tutorial covers a definition of climate, things that effect climate, why climate prediction is complicated, what we can predict about climate change, and what the current predictions are.

Using a dice analogy, the tutorial differentiates between climate and weather. It links concepts of weather conditions with numerical values and then uses a dice-rolling paradigm to illustrate that climate is weather conditions over a long period of time.

Solar energy falling on the earth is used as an example of things that affect climate. The long-term increase in average temperatures is explained by illustrating how a larger portion of the Earth’s daily accumulation of solar energy is being retained instead of being radiated into space.
The complications of climate prediction are tied to chaos theory. Using population modeling of a rabbit community the different predictions using stable and chaotic models are illustrated.

A bell-shaped curve is used to illustrate what sort of predictions we can make about climate. The viewer is introduced to the likelihood based on where the values lie on a bell curve.

A world map allows the viewer to select a continent and see what sort of temperature changes will happen in two different scenarios, each with results being shown for fifty and one hundred years out. The scenarios used are for a fossil fuel-oriented future with high-levels of greenhouse gases and a sustainable future with reduced levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

Overall this tutorial has just the right amount of complexity to solidly address the temperature changes linked to global climate change. It helps to deflate some of the more outrageous claims, but still manages to convey the sense that changes are coming and what the likely dimensions of those changes will be.

A CD-ROM version is also available. Contact .

That's the whole problem with science. You've got a bunch of empiricists
trying to describe things of unimaginable wonder. - Calvin

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