The fine-grained resolution of NASA's most powerful climate model sharpens our understanding of Earth.
A gold standard for supercomputer models that simulate Earth is the ability to recreate real events—snowstorms, tropical cyclones, long-term climate trends. By that benchmark, this 20-day run of one of the highest-resolution climate models in the world glitters. Called GEOS-5, the model was given data leading up to Feb. 2, 2010 and then predicted the atmosphere's response until Feb. 22, 2010 without any further input. The model simulated real weather events that took place during this period—two major snowstorms that struck the East Coast and a Pacific cyclone that formed out of intense convection in the tropics. A closer look at the simulation below reveals its complexity: 3-D cloud layers, the day-night cycle of humidity appearing and disappearing over the Amazon and streaky "cloud streets" that trail across the Atlantic from the U.S. coastline.