New Study: Climate Models Mired In ‘Terra Incognita’ – Lack The Resolution To Model Climate Change

“…models are pushing further and further into the domain of the ‘terra incognita.'” – Stephens et al., 2023

It is well established in climate science that water (1) “exerts a fundamental influence on the physical climate system and on climate change,” (2) clouds “control the planetary albedo and the amount of solar radiation reaching the surface,” and (3) “ocean circulation…determines and modulates the climate of many regions of the world.”

But there’s a rather large problem here. When it comes to climate models, the unknown, unexplored “terra incognita zone is what we experience today.”

“Existing climate models…cannot resolve the detailed structure and life cycles of systems such as tropical cyclones, depressions, and persistent high pressure systems, which are key in the coupling of the energy and water cycle.”

While ocean circulation determines the regional climate, “present day global models are also unable to resolve ocean currents that are fundamental to climate variability.”

At the surface-troposphere altitude, convection dominates heat transfer. While radiation only accounts for 8% of the heat transfer process here, convection accounts for 67%. But today’s climate models cannot “resolve convection.”

“There is now compelling evidence the lack of resolution of coarse global models and even coarsely resolved mesoscale cloud models and the inability to explicitly resolve convection specifically is a major obstacle in making the advances needed to confront important Earth science challenges of today.”

Assessing Earth’s top-of-atmosphere (TOA) energy imbalance (EEI) is fundamental to determining the extent and rate of global (ocean) warming. A measured accuracy of less than ±0.3 W/m² (±0.1 W/m²) is required for attribution (to, for example, human CO2 emissions), and yet the absolute accuracy of TOA measurements is ±2 W/m², and long-term estimates of global mean EEI are “not possible.”

“…none of the techniques available today enable us to estimate the EEI with the perceived required accuracy less than ±0.3 W/m², let alone with an aspirational accuracy of ±0.1 W/m².”

Claiming that we know it is humans controlling the climate today is thus a statement of belief. The claim has no scientific meaning or testability. Indeed, it is unfalsifiable.

Image Source: Stephens et al., 2023

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