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An Introduction to Three-Dimensional Climate Modeling, 2nd Ed.

Warren M. Washington National Center for Atmospheric Research
Claire L. Parkinson NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

This book provides an introduction to the development of three-dimensional climate models, including their four major components: atmosphere, ocean, land/vegetation, and sea ice.

Print Book, ISBN 978-1-891389-35-1, US $82
eBook, eISBN 978-1-938787-56-0, US $61
Copyright 2005
380 pages, Casebound


This book provides an introduction to the development of three-dimensional climate models, including their four major components: atmosphere, ocean, land/vegetation, and sea ice. The fundamental processes in each component and the interactions among them are explained using basic scientific principles, and elements of the numerical methods used in solving the model equations are also provided. The authors show how the theory and models grew historically and how well they are able to account for known aspects of the climate system. This book is written so that a reader who is only vaguely aware of climate models will be able to gain an understanding of what the models are attempting to simulate, how the models are constructed, what the models have succeeded in simulating, and how the models are being used. Examples illustrating the use of the models to simulate aspects of the current climate system are followed by examples illustrating the application of the models to important scientific areas such as understanding paleoclimates, the last millennium, the El Nino/Southern Oscillation, and the effects of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations on future climate change. The book is appropriate for scientists, graduate students, and upper-level undergraduates and can be used as a textbook or for self study and reference. The authors have considerably updated the book from the first edition by adding descriptions of many techniques and results developed since the mid-1980s.


List of Adoptions

Table of Contents

1 Introduction and Historical Development

2 Physical Description of the Climate System

2.1 Atmosphere

2.2 Oceans

2.3 Sea Ice

2.4 Atmosphere/Ocean/Ice Interconnections

2.4.5 Impacts of the ice

3 Basic Model Equations

3.1 Fundamental Equations

3.2 Summary of the Basic Predictive Equations for the Atmosphere

3.3 Vertical Coordinate Systems

3.4 Atmospheric and Ocean Dynamics

3.5 Early General Atmospheric Circulation Model of the Atmosphere

3.6 Radiative and Cloud Processes

3.7 Surface Processes

3.8 Ocean Models

3.9 Sea Ice Models

3.10 River Transport

4 Basic Methods of Solving Model Equations

4.1 Finite Differences

4.2 Finite Differencing in Two Dimensions

4.3 Spectral Method

4.4 Spherical Representation

4.5 Spectral Transform Technique

4.6 Vertical Representation

4.7 Lagrangian and Semi-Lagrangian Methods

4.8 Spectral Element Method

5 Examples of Simulations of Present-Day Climate

5.1 Simulations of the Atmosphere

5.2 Simulations of the Ocean

5.3 Simulations of Sea Ice

5.4 Coupled Atmosphere, Land/Vegetation, Ocean, and Sea Ice Simulations

5.5 El Nino Simulations

5.6 Regional Climate Modeling

5.7 Modeling Groups

6. Climate Sensitivity Experiments

6.1 Sample Early Paleoclimate Simulations

6.2 Sample Later Paleoclimate Simulations

6.3 Sample Simulation of the Last Millennium

6.4 Sample Early Simulations of the El Nino/Southern Oscillation

6.5 Sample Later Simulation of the El Nino/Southern Oscillation

6.6 Research on the Climatic Effects of Increasing Greenhouse Gases and Aerosols

6.7 Sample Early Climate Model Simulations of the Effects of Greenhouse Gases

6.8 Later Simulations of the Effects of Greenhouse Gases, Aerosols, and Other Climate Forcings

6.9 Climate Modeling with the Carbon Cycle

6.10 Possible Climatic Effects Due to Nuclear War

6.11 Overview of Climate Sensitivity Studies

7 Outlook for Future Developments

7.1 Climate Model Evolution and Status

7.2 Issues Involved in Coupling

7.3 Continuing Needs

7.4 Two Further Potential Uses of Climate Models

7.5 National Research Council Assessment

7.6 Concluding Remarks

A Vector Calculus

B Legendre Polynomials and Gaussian Quadrature

C Derivation of Energy Equations

D Unit Abbreviations

E Physical Constants in Systeme International (SI) Units,

and Typical Surface Albedos

F Conversions and Prefixes

G Greek Alphabet

H Acronyms

I Aerosols

J Solar Radiation, Including Effects of Aerosols

K Internet Sites for Climate Modeling and Climate Data

L Computer Architectures Used in Climate Modeling:

Definition of Terms




“This is an excellent book, well formatted, readable, and very informative to those entering the field or its neighbors.”
-Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., June 2006

“An excellent second edition…Compliments to the authors for a useful and carefully written book. I will assign it to my new Ph.D. students in the same way as I have asked them for almost two decades to read the first edition.”
-Oceanography, Vol. 18, No. 3, Sept. 2005

“This completely updated book provides a clear, unified and comprehensive view of global climate models, consisting of atmosphere, ocean, land/vegetation and sea ice components, and their application to simulations of present, past and future climates. The book will serve well as a text for graduate students, a valuable reference for climate specialists, and an attractive entry point for scientists from many disciplines who are interested in climate modeling and its applications.”
-John E. Kutzbach, University of Wisconsin

Warren M. Washington

Warren M. Washington National Center for Atmospheric Research

Warren Washington has been a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) since 1963 and is head of the Climate Change Research Section in the Climate and Global Dynamics Division at NCAR. He is the Chair of the Presidential appointed National Science Board and he is an internationally recognized expert in atmospheric science and climate research, who serves on the Secretary of Energy’s Department of Energy Biological and Environmental Research Advisory Committee (BERAC). He is a member of the American Philosophical Society, the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academies of Science Coordinating Committee on Global Change, and distinguished alumni of Oregon State and Pennsylvania State Universities. He is a fellow of American Meteorology Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 1994, Dr. Washington served as President of American Meteorological Society. He was awarded the National Medal of Science in 2010, and the Tyler Prize in 2019.

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Claire L. Parkinson

Claire L. Parkinson NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Claire L. Parkinson has been a climatologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center since 1978, with a research emphasis on polar sea ice and climate change. She is also Project Scientist for the Aqua satellite mission, aimed at improved understanding of the coupled atmosphere/ocean/land/ice system, has done field work in both polar regions, and has written books on satellite Earth observations and the history of science. She has a B.A. from Wellesley College and a Ph.D. from Ohio State University and has served on committees for NASA, NOAA, and the National Academy of Sciences. She is a Fellow of both the American Meteorological Society and Phi Beta Kappa and received a NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal in 2003 and the Goldthwait Polar Medal from Ohio State's Byrd Polar Research Center in 2004.

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