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SCIENTIFIC VISUALIZATION IN CLIMATOLOGY

February 18, 2019

 

In the late 1980s, it appeared that scientific visualization was going to really improve our understanding of physical processes. It was exciting to observe the work of the Ames Fluid Dynamics research scientists as they began modeling complex processes and generating remarkable digital video of fluid movements. As a corporate advisor to a major university research program at that time, it was my hope that this methodology would lead to major breakthroughs in our understanding of fluid dynamics. 

 

It is now several decades later. Computer technology is well advanced. How far have we come in understanding fluid dynamics? Is it being applied in the area of climatology? Don’t we have something better to offer than 2-D line graphs of global temperature increases for climate model output? Of course we do.  Just go to the NASA website and you can access the NASA Climate Machine.

 

Unfortunately, this will just be computer graphics that show the warming of the earth over several years, melting ice caps, receding glaciers, rising sea levels and CO2 emission increases seemingly in support of IPCC climate alarmists’ view of the future. But you can go to the tab for educators and find a crossword puzzle for Black History Month 2019.  I am not criticizing the celebration of Black History. I am just not sure what that has to do with climate research and research funding.

Somewhere I did find a visual of the work by NASA Ames on the aerodynamic flow around an aircraft’s landing gear. Now that’s what I’m talking about.

 

It would seem to me that by now, we should be able to model most of the physical processes that create the climate to include:

- the gravitational effects of the closer planets and the moon on sea levels,

- the uneven heating of the earth’s atmosphere and oceans, caused by many factors,

- the effect of uneven heating on land and oceans that cause fluid movements such as decadal and seasonal ocean currents, the jet stream, wind velocities, wind direction and cloud distributions. 

 

We have fairly accurate mapping of both ocean and surface topography so we should be able to show the fluid movements reasonably well with computer simulations.  You can access the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information and gain access to many datasets and some visualization output. 

 

As it turns out, the climate modelers have been using visualization masterfully. They have even added phase behavior to the mix based on chemical composition of the atmosphere which is getting us closer to understanding the effects of natural and anthropogenic gas emissions.

 

 With a reasonable working model that matches both historical climate data and current weather projections, we should be able to include the work of scientists whose specialties are in the field of the biological and botanical effects of climate change including paleoclimatology. At this point you would think that we could get most climate scientists excited enough to work together on improving the accuracy of the dynamic model. In any case, the current state-of-the-art is not sufficiently accurate for use in setting government energy policy that will effect millions of human beings such as that proposed in The Green New Deal.

 

Perhaps research grants should be awarded on the basis of scientific accuracy and willingness to work with others. Pipe dream I guess.

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