Climate models are computer programs that apply physical laws to calculate how climate has changed in the past and may change in the future. Models range from relatively simple ones, which represent only the most essential processes at a coarse spatial resolution, to complex ones, which include many additional important interactions between the atmosphere, ocean, sea ice and land surface operating at regional scales. Models are not a perfect representation of the climate system. By necessity, some complex processes must be idealized or incompletely represented. That said, models do a remarkable job of reproducing most of the important aspects of our present climate system.
Climate models have been used to test the hypothesis that floods of freshwater entering the North Atlantic were responsible for past abrupt coolings in Europe and eastern North America. The effects of such a freshwater hosing can be examined using numerical (computer) models of the coupled ocean-atmosphere circulation. The model results shown below were completed by Ron Stouffer at the NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, and are based on the work reported by Manabe and Stouffer (1997).
Animation of surface air temperature change
Maps of surface air temperature
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