Demystifying Climate Models

Volume 2 of the series Earth Systems Data and Models pp 237-253

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.


Summary and Final Thoughts

  • Andrew GettelmanAffiliated withNational Center for Atmospheric Research Email author 
  • , Richard B. RoodAffiliated withAtmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences, College of Engineering, University of Michigan


This chapter sets out to synthesize the key points from the preceding chapters. The synthesis includes a summary of what is understood about predicting climate and what is uncertain. We summarize the basic principles behind climate models. We describe in a qualitative fashion the mechanics of how the different components of a climate model are constructed. In the process, we focus on critical aspects of the climate system that make the different pieces complex, uncertain, and interesting. For most parts of the earth system, important mechanisms for how climate works are not necessarily intuitive. Finally, we lay out some of the methods for evaluating models, and examined what climate models are good for, and what they are not good for. This includes a detailed look at uncertainty, and a look at the applications of models for decision making. To this we also add a summary of the future directions and challenges for climate modeling.