The Climate Demon: Past, Present, and Future of Climate Prediction

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Cambridge University Press, Oct 21, 2021 - Science
Climate predictions - and the computer models behind them - play a key role in shaping public opinion and our response to the climate crisis. Some people interpret these predictions as 'prophecies of doom' and some others dismiss them as mere speculation, but the vast majority are only vaguely aware of the science behind them. This book gives a balanced view of the strengths and limitations of climate modeling. It covers historical developments, current challenges, and future trends in the field. The accessible discussion of climate modeling only requires a basic knowledge of science. Uncertainties in climate predictions and their implications for assessing climate risk are analyzed, as are the computational challenges faced by future models. The book concludes by highlighting the dangers of climate 'doomism', while also making clear the value of predictive models, and the severe and very real risks posed by anthropogenic climate change.
 

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Contents

Introduction
1
The Dawn of Computing
11
The Butterfly and the Tornado
27
Goldilocks and the Three Planets
47
Smagorinskys Laboratory
63
Butterflies in the Greenhouse
77
Black Swan at the Polar Dawn
87
From Gown to Town
99
14 Lost in Translation
212
15 Taking Climate Models Seriously Not Literally
233
To Exascale and Beyond
253
The Climate Imitation Game
268
Reducing the Fever
280
Hedging Our Climate Bets
287
20 Moonwalking into the Future
307
Epilogue
314

The Reduction to Simplicity
129
A Conservative View of Modeling
142
A Comedy of Compensating Errors
157
The Emergence of Complexity
166
The Red Queens Race of Climate Modeling
178
Degrees of Knowledge
193
Glossary
316
Notes
319
Select Bibliography
338
References
340
Index
372
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About the author (2021)

R. Saravanan is Head of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M University. He is a climate scientist with a background in physics and fluid dynamics and has been a lead researcher using computer models of the climate for over thirty years. He built an open-source simplified climate model from scratch, and has worked on complex models run on the world's most powerful supercomputers. He has worked with scientists at multiple climate modeling centers: the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) in Princeton; the UK Universities Global Atmospheric Modelling Programme (UGAMP) in Cambridge; and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado. Saravanan has served on national and international committees on climate science, including the National Research Council (NRC) Committee on the Assessment of Intraseasonal to Interannual Climate Prediction and Predictability, and the Science Steering Committee of the Prediction and Research Moored Array in the Atlantic (PIRATA). He recently helped create the TED-Ed animated short, 'Is the weather actually becoming more extreme?'.

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