Scientists put the fundamental physical equations of the Earth’s climate into a computer model, which is then able to reproduce – among many other things – the circulation of the oceans, the annual cycle of the seasons, and the flows of carbon between the land surface and the atmosphere.
Bringing all these pieces together, a climate model can produce a representation of the whole climate system at 30-minute intervals over many decades or even centuries.
As Dr Gavin Schmidt, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, describes in his TED talk in 2014, the interactions of small-scale processes in a model mean it creates a simulation of our climate – everything from the evaporation of moisture from the Earth’s surface and formation of clouds, to where the wind carries them and where the rain eventually falls.
You can’t understand climate change in pieces, says climate scientist Gavin Schmidt. It’s the whole, or it’s nothing. In this illuminating talk, he explains how he studies the big picture of climate change with mesmerizing models that illustrate the endlessly complex interactions of small-scale environmental events.