Climate Models To Start Asking The Important Questions
On Tuesday, a converted Gulfstream V jet loaded with scientific instruments took off from an airport in Colorado on a 24-day mission to measure carbon dioxide concentrations at thousands at different locations and altitudes over the Pacific Ocean between the North and South Poles....
Strange as it may seem, until the "Hippo" pole-to-pole observations began two years ago no one had actually measured carbon dioxide concentrations in such detail from one end of the Earth to the other at different altitudes, from sea-level to 45,000ft. The project is run by the US National Centre for Atmospheric Research and it has already revealed that the many dozens of gases and other compounds that make up the atmosphere vary significantly from one place to another and from one altitude to another.
It is this heterogeneity that will be fed into the computer models of the climate which have in the past assumed a rather homogeneous and hence inaccurate picture of the different greenhouse gases present in the atmosphere.
"It's not so much to prove the models wrong, it's to help the modellers do the right thing by giving them the data to show them whether they are right or not," said David Fahey of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, one of the hundreds of scientists working on the Hippo project.
"Once you can show the models have skill then you can ask important questions like 'What is going to happen if...?'. That's what the world really needs to know," Dr Fahey added.
And there was me thinking that they already had answered those important questions like 'What is going to happen if...