Earth's Climate System

Earth's Climate System

Before we look at how climate models work, we first take a brief look at what they simulate. The ultimate goal of climate modeling is to accurately simulate the flow of energy through the climate system via many interacting processes. In light of that, we start with the big picture: global energy flows.

For the climate system to be in a steady state, the long-term average energy coming in must balance the long-term energy going out. At the surface, the amount of energy absorbed through radiation has to balance that lost through the combined effects of radiation, latent heat, and sensible heat. This is analogous to a checking account. If, over time, you're putting more money into a checking account than you're taking out, then money will accumulate in the bank. On the other hand, if you take more out than you put in, then you'll eventually deplete your account. If you put in as much as you take out over time, then the balance will stay constant.