global climate model

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When viewed in just the right way, Earth is covered in swirling brushstrokes that put Van Gogh’s most famous works to shame. Differences in temperature and pressure, friction and other phenomena cause fluids like water in the ocean and air in the atmosphere to move in mesmerizing patterns. Sometimes it just takes a supercomputer to see the dance. 

These images represent the next generation of ocean current models that reveal some of the hidden action. Produced by the Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Lab, the top image shows Atlantic Ocean water surface temperatures and the bottom illustrates the Southern Ocean’s currents and eddies flowing eastward around Antarctica. 

Both are part of the lab’s Climate, Ocean and Sea Ice Modeling program to project global alterations to the planet from climate change using the most advanced technologies and methods. Models were built using a supercomputer that operates 8,000 processors simultaneously and verified against real-world satellite and shipboard observations. 

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Climate scientists join search for alien Earths

NASA initiative seeks to bolster interdisciplinary science in hunt for extraterrestrial life.

By Jeff Tollefson

The hunt for life beyond the Solar System is gaining new partners: NASA climatologists. After more than 30 years of studying Earth, a team at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York will adapt its global climate model to simulate conditions on potentially habitable exoplanets. The effort is part of a broader push to identify Earth-like worlds that NASA will launch on 20 April at a meeting in Washington DC.

Already, the agency’s space-based Kepler telescope has pinpointed more than 1,000 alien planets by observing the brief interruption of starlight that signals a planet passing in front of its parent star. At least five of these planets are similar in size to Earth and located in the ‘habitable zone’, where liquid water could persist. The next step would be to detect light passing through exoplanet atmospheres, which could hold clues to conditions on these distant worlds.

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