3 – Climate Models & Measuring Techniques

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Can science tell the future? Well, not exactly, but we are getting better.

Climate models help forecast decades of climate, and we’re about to learn how a line of code translates into an entire realm of possible future scenarios.


Animatter: Climate Change Natural Causes Explained

What Are Proxy Data?

“In paleoclimatology, or the study of past climates, scientists use what is known as proxy data to reconstruct past climate conditions. These proxy data are preserved physical characteristics of the environment that can stand in for direct measurements…” 

August 24, 2018 •National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

SciShow Space: How Much Does the Sun Affect Earth’s Climate?

The Lost World

“The Geological Society of London, known to its members as the Geol Soc (pronounced “gee-ahl sock”), was founded in 1807, over dinner in a Covent Garden tavern…” 

December 2013 • The New Yorker

Paleoclimatology: How Can We Infer Past Climates?

“Paleoclimatology is the study of past climates. Since it is not possible to go back in time to see what climates were like, scientists use imprints created during past climate, known as proxies, to interpret paleoclimate…” 

Accessed July 2020 • Carleton College

I crush stalagmites from protected caves

“When people find out I do research on cave deposits, they almost always ask me, “Do you go spelunking?!” The short answer is yes, I do visit beautiful caves all over the world, but the longer answer is more complicated…” 

March 5, 2018 • Massive Science

KPM: Measuring Climate Change

Measurement Techniques

Yale University: Satellite vs. Surface Temperatures

SciShow: Its Hard to Measure Sea Level

ABC Science: How do they predict the weather?

How do scientists measure global temperature?

“Every year around this time, there’s a flurry of activity in the world’s major meteorological agencies as they prepare to release official global temperature figures for the previous year….” 

January 16, 2015 • Carbon Brief

Measuring Precipitation

“Today, scientists can measure precipitation directly—using ground-based instruments such as rain gauges—or indirectly—using remote sensing techniques (e.g., from radar systems, aircraft, and Earth-observing satellites)…” 

Accessed July 2020 • World Bank

Verification Games in Operational Meteorology

“To gain occupational legitimacy, workers depend on claims of accuracy. How are these claims assessed? Organizations judge competence and effectiveness using metrics, which can be massaged…”  

Read page 3-5 and 19-21. Pick two other subsections to read.

February 2006 • Journal of Contemporary Ethnography

Climate Models

TED: The Emergent Patterns of Climate Change

Climate modeling

“Climate models are important tools for improving our understanding and predictability of climate behavior on seasonal, annual, decadal, and centennial time scales. Models investigate the degree to which observed climate changes may be due to natural variability, human activity, or a combination of both…” 

Accessed July 2020 • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Changing the Atmosphere

“If the idea of a truly global environment problem required a poster child, climate change would certainly top the list of candidates…” 

Read page 31-35 and 56-64

2001 • MIT Press

Methods for Understanding Climate Change

Preemption, precaution, preparedness

“The paper focuses on how futures are anticipated and acted on in relation to a set of events that are taken to threaten liberal democracies…” 

View tables 1 (page 789) and 2 (page 792)

2010 • Progress in Human Geography

Promoting Sustainable Solutions

“The overarching aim of FRACTAL was to co-produce relevant climate knowledge to support resilient development pathways of African cities. Its three main objectives were to deepen understanding of city specific contexts, unpacking urban climate change risks and impacts; to explore the decision-making space in the FRACTAL cities and look for opportunities to better incorporate climate knowledge into decision-making contexts; and advance understanding of physical climate processes that govern the regional system (observed and simulated) and develop robust and scale relevant climate information…” 

Read page 8-10

November 2019 • START

Building Bridges Between Scientific and Indigenous Communities

“In the past decade indigenous people have been participating increasingly in conversations about climate change in national and international arenas. This trend is reflected in the U.S. National Climate Assessment, which now features a distinct section dedicated to native people.” 

April 26, 2016 • Natural Hazards Center

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Optional Resources

DOCUMENTARY: Chasing Coral

How Pollen Tells Us About Climate

“If you have allergies, you know exactly what this bee is covered in. It’s pollen! Every year around springtime, pollen spores come out and wreak havoc on thousands in the form of itchy watery eyes, runny noses, and uncontrollable sneezing. But how can these pesky spores help scientists learn about the past climate?…” 

Accessed July 2020 • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

National Science Foundation: Climate Modeling Accuracy

How ‘integrated assessment models’ are used to study climate change

“Working out the best ways to tackle climate change is one of the key challenges facing policymakers both today and in the decades ahead. To inform these decisions, scientists and economists have developed a suite of tools known as “integrated assessment models” (IAMs). These models are used to answer central questions about climate change, from how the world could avoid 1.5C of global warming at the lowest cost, through to the implications of countries’ current pledges to cut emissions…” 

October 2, 2018 • Carbon Brief

How We Can Learn from Corals

“How can scientists learn about climate from these beautiful and essential underwater ecosystems? Many coral reefs have been around for millions of years, yet they are extremely sensitive to changes in climate conditions…” 

Accessed July 2020 • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Climate at the core: how scientists study ice cores to reveal Earth’s climate history

“Like a prehistoric fly trapped in amber during dinosaurs’ days, airborne relics of Earth’s earlier climate—including dust, air bubbles, sea salts, volcanic ash, and soot from forest fires—can end up trapped in glacial ice for eons. To climate scientists, those relics tell a story about how our planet’s climate and atmosphere have changed over thousands of years…” 

Accessed July 2020 • National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration

Brown University: Modeling our Climate

National Science Foundation: Limitations in Climate Modeling

Some new climate models are projecting extreme warming. Are they correct?

“Recent climate models are ‘running hot,’ projecting catastrophic global warming. Puzzled scientists are weighing whether the models need correcting or whether severe warming is a real threat…” 

July 1, 2020 • Yale Climate Connections