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Supercomputing the Climate

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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Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Observations, experiments, and theory are used to construct and refine computer models
About Teaching Principle 5
Other materials addressing 5c
Meteorology and climatology are related but different sciences, and their processes are modeled and forecast differently
About Teaching Principle 5
Other materials addressing 5d
Climate models are robust enough to be used for guiding decision and actions as response to climate change
About Teaching Principle 5
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Our understanding of climate
About Teaching Climate Literacy
Other materials addressing Our understanding of climate

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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