The First Climate Model Turns 50, And Predicted Global Warming Almost Perfectly
“The big advance of Manabe and Wetherald’s work was to model not just the feedbacks but the interrelationships between the different components that contribute to the Earth’s temperature. As the atmospheric contents change, so do both the absolute and relative humidity, which impacts cloud cover, water vapor content and cycling/convection of the atmosphere. What they found is that if you start with a stable initial state – roughly what Earth experienced for thousands of years prior to the start of the industrial revolution – you can tinker with one component (like CO2) and model how everything else evolves.”
In 1967, a groundbreaking paper in climate science was published, detailing the inputs and feedbacks for the first accurate climate model. You don’t have to look far to find contentions that climate models are wrong, inaccurate and unreliable: 8 of the first 10 results on google state it. Yet if you look at the science, the original model, even at age 50, does a remarkable job of getting things right. The biggest success? Understanding how large-scale processes work, including the thermodynamic effects of adding additional greenhouse gases to Earth’s atmosphere. The increase of temperature – approximately 2 degrees C for a doubling of CO2 – was well known then, and continues to be well known today. There are uncertainties and difficulties in modern models, but that doesn’t mean there’s uncertainty surrounding global warming. Quite to the contrary, the evidence has never been better.