Blog by Sandy Harrison
I was delighted to be spearheading a workshop held at University of Reading in July that brought together observationalists and modellers working on palaeoclimates, model development, and assessment of future climate changes to address this question.
Climate models are mathematical representations of the interactions between the atmosphere, oceans, land surface, ice – and the sun. The models used for future climate projections were developed and calibrated using climate observations from the past 40 years. They are also the only tools available to project the human impact on the environment changes over the 21st century. These models perform well in terms of global features (e.g. magnitude of global warming), but model performance at a regional scale is poor.
By researching past climates (paleoclimatology), studying the fossils of plants and animals preserved in lake or bog sediments, we can determine how ecosystems have changed over time. This has practical importance to our lives today and in the future.
Records of the past tell us what the climate system can do. For example, if there have been shifts from grasslands to forests in Northern Africa in response to major shifts in rainfall, then similar shifts can happen again. Understanding the natural climate variability, those that come about without external factors such as human impact provide a baseline from which to assess the effects of these forced changes.
Currently only very limited use has been made of the power of the palaeorecord to improve modelling capacity. In part, this is because there is a disconnect between the model-development and palaeoclimate communities. It also reflects the limited focus on evaluating earth-system components (as opposed to surface climate) by the palaeoclimate community.
An important question we looked at in-depth at this milestone Past2Future workshop is whether the relationships developed from modern observations will be reliable when we move beyond our current range of climate models. The past holds the key here and we will be looking at the potential for palaeodata to be better integrated in model development, tuning and evaluation. Most significantly, I hope this workshop will be the catalyst for the development of a new framework to improve Earth System Models.
Sandy Harrison is Professor in Global Palaeoclimates and Biogeochemical Cycles in the School of Geography and Environmental Science, University of Reading.
#communicating #climatechange its not always gone as well as we have hoped... our new #blog gives insight from… https://t.co/y6hO3Qkplm
13:17 PM - 18 Jan 2019
Our @ClimActStudio reps, Emanuele & Michael, presenting their takeaways from @COP24 at the @UniRdg_Met's weekly wea… https://t.co/KwaBIMp2r4
13:17 PM - 18 Jan 2019
It seems I got carried away making bad 'yolks' and forgot to give the most important details: 23rd January, 4:30pm,… https://t.co/EFYHvn1UDA
09:56 AM - 18 Jan 2019
Really interesting #interdisciplinary and international panel discussion on #COP24 By @WalkerInst this afternoon. G… https://t.co/zTtTpokJTx
13:37 PM - 17 Jan 2019
Very full room for the @WalkerInst event on 'What happened at @COP24Katowice' - can't wait to hear more about it! https://t.co/fBkCrR7td7
15:04 PM - 16 Jan 2019
Our interdisciplinary friends @WalkerInst are speaking about their experiences at #COP24 this lunchtime 12:30 Agric… https://t.co/zgkovpdEmE
09:43 AM - 16 Jan 2019