Modelling the Climate System: An Overview

  • Gabriele GramelsbergerEmail author
  • Johann Feichter


A Google search for the keyword ‘climate’ on a cold summer day in August 2010 delivered more than 150 million links in 0.23 s, and ‘climate change’ brought another 58 million. Obviously it is no problem to find floods of information about these topics on the net, yet understanding the scientific concept of climate and climate modelling is not so easy. The trouble with ‘climate’ starts when it is mixed up with the idea of weather, and when extreme weather events and short-term trends in temperature or precipitation are interpreted as effects of climate change. Usually, these interpretations are linked to an individual’s memory of experiences in childhood and other periods of life. But the trouble results not from this individual definition, which does not accord with the World Meteorological Organization’s official definition of climate as the statistics of weather. The trouble is raised by the scientific concept of climate as a mathematical construct that cannot be experienced directly. This problem is hitting science now that socio-political demands are coming into play. For responding to such demands, science has to break down its statistical and general concepts into individual and local conclusions, but this is—at the moment at least—not possible. The reason lies in the top-down approach of modern science, which uses globally valid equations to achieve increasingly higher resolution. The great challenge for meteorology during the next years and decades will be to translate statistical and general results into individual and local knowledge. Or in other words, science has to connect its global view with local circumstances. Regional modelling and downscaling are just the beginning, although these methods are still far removed from any particular individual or local view of a particular city or area. Of course, one can ask why humans do not simply get used to the scientific concept of climate. But when concrete environmental activities are required, individual needs and local effects play the main role, not the annual mean global temperature.


Climate Sensitivity World Meteorological Organization Couple Model Intercomparison Project Gross National Product Community Climate System Model 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of PhilosophyFree University BerlinBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, The Atmosphere in the Earth SystemHamburgGermany

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