In DepthCOMPUTER MODELING

Climate scientists open up their black boxes to scrutiny

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Science  28 Oct 2016:
Vol. 354, Issue 6311, pp. 401-402
DOI: 10.1126/science.354.6311.401

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Summary

Climate models render as much as they can by applying the laws of physics to imaginary boxes tens of kilometers a side. But some processes, like cloud formation, are too fine-grained for that, and so modelers use "parameterizations": equations meant to approximate their effects. For years, climate scientists have tuned their parameterizations so that the model overall matches climate records. But fearing criticism by climate skeptics, they have largely kept quiet about how they tune their models, and by how much. That is now changing. By writing up tuning strategies and making them publicly available for the first time, groups hope to learn how to make their predictions more reliable—and more transparent.