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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 5:30 minutes.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

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 Content

  • 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.
  • Comments from expert scientist:
    Scientific strengths:
    great visual of climate and weather models and how they work!
    - Clear explanation of what numerical models are and what they do
    - Clear explanation of why weather models are important (most accurate prediction of weather from 1 week to 10 days)
    - Explanation of how data is used (satellites collect data--> data entered to computers --> supercomputers --> continuing daily accumulation of satellite and ground observations)
    - Difference between weather and climate models
    - Examples of actual models used (MERA)

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.
Entered the Collection: June 2018 Last Reviewed: December 2016

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