The Critical Zone

Future Climate Change Predictions and Model Evaluation


Future climate change projections are based on our understanding of the atmosphere, ocean, and climate system as it is mathematically represented in powerful computer models of the globe that reconstruct physical and chemical processes. These models are tested by their ability to accurately represent modern climate conditions and by using paleoclimate proxy data to "ground truth" model output for past climate conditions. In this manner, scientists can determine whether or not models accurately reconstruct the full range of climate extremes that can occur in Earth's climate system.

Many models have been applied to determine Earth's near-future climate. The results of these modeling efforts can then be applied to anticipating changes in Critical Zone processes, many of which are extremely relevant to the health of human society and all life on our planet.

Reading assignment

To learn more about future climate change predictions, please read the "Future Climate Change" section of the United States EPA Web site (but instead go here).

Also, visit the Climate Inspector page in the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit to view future climate simulations from one of the leading global climate models.

Want to learn more?

(Optional) Read Chapter 11, Near-term Climate Change: Projections and Predictability, in Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis, IPCC.

  • Do not worry about the details.
  • Read the Executive Summary.
  • Browse the figures, noting the range in predictions dependent upon the model being considered; I find Figure 9.14 to be particularly enlightening.
  • The General Summary and Figure 9.31 also provide good overviews.

Struggling to teach climate change in your 9-12 classroom?

Check out: Visualizing and Understanding the Science of Climate Change