Climate Drivers

  • Released Wednesday, June 30, 2021
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Climate models simulate interactions of critical climate processes and drivers of change and aim to increase our understanding of Earth’s climate system. Measurements clearly demonstrate the changes to the Earth’s climate over the twentieth century up to the present day, and climate models are used to inform us about possible changes in the future climate. In the published articles titled GISS-E2.1: Configurations and climatology and CMIP6 historical simulations (1850–2014) with GISS-E2.1, the NASA GISS research team describe the computer climate model GISS-E.2.1 including its development over the last few years, summarize its main features, and compare it with previous versions and the observations. Notably, they describe how well the trends in multiple features of the climate are captured in the historical simulations from 1850 to 2014.

The data visualizations featured on this page present a high-level summary of the contributions of the NASA GISS-E2.1-G model to the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (Phase 6) (CMIP6), while showcasing the human and natural drivers of climate change, which were part of the Detection and Attribution Model Intercomparison Project (DAMIP), a sub-project of CMIP6. The visualization includes spatial maps paired with multiplots. Assuming a grid-like structure, the visualization comprises two major parts:


On the left we can see four separate maps in Wagner projection showing four distinct simulated datasets, displaying as anomalies. The anomalies are calculated using a baseline of 1951-1980. Top to bottom the datasets are: Mid-Stratosphere Temperature, Lower Stratosphere Temperature, Surface Temperature and Ocean Heat Content. The datasets present historical simulations with both natural and anthropogenic drivers for the period 1850-2014 and are paired with corresponding colormaps.

Middle and Right:

In the middle, synchronized multiplots for the same period track and visualize distinct drivers: natural (green), human (red), human and natural (blue), for each dataset. On the right, the Arctic Ice Area anomaly multiplot is followed by the visualization legends. As the timeline unfolds, we can see observations (in black for light background / in white for black background) starting to appear. These observations are used to evaluate the NASA GISS-E2.1-G model and while simulated data end in 2014, observations are plotted through 2018 (with the exception of Ocean Heat Content which is plotted through 2015).

The historical timeline and the visualized maps show trends of stratospheric cooling, surface warming and significantly increased Arctic Ice Area loss, all of which are consistent with human forcing, especially rising greenhouse gas concentrations and ozone depletion. Therefore, it becomes apparent that the influence of human drivers is predominant in the climate system trends over the twentieth century and up to the present day.

The NASA GISS-E2.1 contributions to CMIP6 and its evaluation with observations offer new knowledge and serve our society by improving our understanding of the processes that govern climate change and climate interactions with natural and human activities for the past and the future.

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