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Supercomputing the Climate
http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/a010000/a010500/a010563/index.html

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

This video provides an overview of how computer models work. It explains the process of data assimilation, which is necessary to ensure that models are tied to reality. The video includes a discussion of weather models using the Goddard Earth Observing System (GEOS-5) model and climate models using the MERRA (Modern Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications) technique.

Video length 5.07 min.

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Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Observations, experiments, and theory are used to construct and refine computer models that represent the climate system and make predictions about its future behavior. Results from these models lead to better understanding of the linkages between the atmosphere-ocean system and climate conditions and inspire more observations and experiments. Over time, this iterative process will result in more reliable projections of future climate conditions.
About Teaching Principle 5
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Our understanding of climate differs in important ways from our understanding of weather. Climate scientists’ ability to predict climate patterns months, years, or decades into the future is constrained by different limitations than those faced by meteorologists in forecasting weather days to weeks into the future.
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Scientists have conducted extensive research on the fundamental characteristics of the climate system and their understanding will continue to improve. Current climate change projections are reliable enough to help humans evaluate potential decisions and actions in response to climate change.
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understanding of the climate system is improved through observations, theoretical studies, and modeling
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Benchmarks for Science Literacy
Learn more about the Benchmarks

In science, the testing, revising, and occasional discarding of theories, new and old, never ends. This ongoing process leads to a better understanding of how things work in the world but not to absolute truth.
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Computer modeling explores the logical consequences of a set of instructions and a set of data. The instructions and data input of a computer model try to represent the real world so the computer can show what would actually happen. In this way, computers assist people in making decisions by simulating the consequences of different possible decisions.
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Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • The contemporary 'nature of science' involves the union of science, mathematics, and technology where computer-coded equations are solved to help understand satellite and ground observations and predict future conditions.
  • This video can be used to introduce the roles of data, scientists, and computer models in predicting weather and climate conditions.

About the Science

  • The animation includes several examples of visual results of computer model runs. While there is some advanced reference to the NASA Center for Climate Simulation (NCCS) and current NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center approaches, the visuals may help general audiences understand the scientific material.
  • Passed initial science review - expert science review pending.

About the Pedagogy

  • Prefacing the video with a definition of computer models as "systems of equations that represent physical systems" may help prepare students to understand the abstract concepts of weather and climate models.
  • You may want to follow the video with a review of data assimilation, in which models run forward to make predictions, then actual observations are brought into the system (assimilated) to give the model an accurate snapshot of reality before making the next set of predictions.
  • There is no specific teacher's guide for this video. There is a transcript of the narration at: http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/a010000/a010500/a010563/NCCS_transcript.html.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • The video is available in multiple sizes and formats.

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