How Model Simulations Help to Better Understand Our Climate System

Observational data collected from ships or measuring platforms provide an important basis for understanding the ocean and climate. But even with the very latest technologies and thousands of measuring instruments in use, it is not possible to capture the state of the global ocean or atmosphere with the required accuracy. This is why climate models are necessary to better understand natural processes in computer simulations and to estimate possible future developments.

Model simulations enable science to extend knowledge about the Earth spatially and temporally beyond the data measured on site, based on the laws of physics. However, the numerical models only provide an approximation to reality, since not all processes can be represented at high spatial resolution, even with very large computers.

At GEOMAR, very different simulations are used for this purpose: regional, very high-resolution ocean models for studies of several decades, coupled models of ocean and atmosphere, which, depending on the resolution, can also cover periods of centuries, up to simplified models that cover long periods of time or with which a certain scenario is calculated very often in order to estimate the range of results. This is because the smallest differences in the starting conditions can lead to very different developments after a certain time due to the chaotic nature of air and water currents. This is another reason why a comparison with measured data is always very important.


Research news: Model Simulations

Mesoscale and submesoscale currents in the ocean south of Africa. A zoom into snapshots of surface normalised relative vorticity (a measure of rotation and turbulence) from a 1/60° of horizontal resolution numerical simulation. Graphic: Arne Biastoch, Franziska Schwarzkopf, GEOMAR

WHIRLS: Small ocean swirls with large impacts on climate and marine life

International research team receives ERC Synergy Grant for interdisciplinary project

A unicellular plant under the microscope

What Phytoplankton Physiology Has to Do with Global Climate

New Insights into the Nitrogen-Phosphorus Ratio in the Ocean

A massive cyclone swirls across the sea

How weather phenomena affect ocean circulation

Study investigates the impact of extreme weather events on the tropical Pacific

A young woman stands in front of an expanse of water, harbour facilities in the background

When the ocean becomes a source of carbon dioxide

GEOMAR researcher Ivy Frenger receives ERC Starting Grant for her project OSTIA

A map of the North Atlantic with colour-coded ocean currents

Winter storms over Labrador Sea influence Gulf Stream system

New study on Atlantic current variability published