Why write about climate policy if readers lack a clear picture of how cloudy a crystal ball climate modelers have in hand ? The credibility of their products ought to improve as their resolution improves , and data and computational power evolve, but progress is neither automatic nor assured.
Because what goes in to them remains as subject to fashion consensus as hemlines , climate models still may no more resemble the real world than, well , models. Twiggy remains a three dimensional human being , but a cartoon on HDTV is still a cartoon. More than geographic realism is at issue , but some cautionary details of the limited resolution NOAA and the IPCC have to work with can be seen in one of Real Climate's best efforts to date.
Let viewers beware of what the media make of it --given the present state of the art , global models do not even attempt the
prediction of regional climate. Map pixels small enough to show familiar features aren't enough. They need to reflect the
shifting averages of their next nearest neighbors to
carry modeling forward to a level of realism relevant to regional climate policy debates.
1-Dimensional Model circa early 1970's .
Flawed satellite data have caused past scientific acrimony over temperature trends. One wayward NOAA satellite radiometer — the only instrument to measure temperature in the stratosphere before 1998, delivered pointing error biased temperature measurements that went undiscovered for two decades , concealing the reality of rising tropospheric temperatures.
Jean-Noël Thépaut, who heads The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, warns "Inter-calibration has to be almost perfect if we want to look at climate trends — otherwise the bias will be stronger than the signal you want to address," The onboard recalibration of satellite instruments takesa long screwdriver too, and a German Weather Service research director notes "The development of new sensor technology is progressing much faster than our capability to validate data."