Time for a multinational facility fit for studying climate change

10 March 2011


Professor Tim Palmer has been championing the need for a dedicated facility to help predict and model climate change. Professor Palmer, Director of the School’s Programme on Modelling and Predicting Climate voiced his opinions in an interview with Physics World:

“We do not have sufficient computing power to solve the equations of climate science with sufficient accuracy,” argues Palmer. “[A truly international climate-prediction]...facility would allow the dedicated use of cutting-edge exascale (1018operations per second) technology for understanding and predicting climate, for the benefit of society worldwide.”

This winter saw unprecedented levels of travel chaos across Europe and the US. In particular, the UK experienced some of the coldest December temperatures on record, with snow and ice causing many airports to close. The problem is that simulating these weather patterns in comprehensive numerical models requires massive computer power and investment in technology.

Climate change is a global problem that requires global solutions. Humanity has repeatedly shown that it is more than able to step up a gear in technical and scientific achievement when there is the desire to do so.

Palmer believes it is time to start planning for a truly international climate-prediction facility, on a scale such as ITER or CERN. He argues that such a facility would allow national climate centres to do the sort of research experimentation currently impossible. It would encourage a climate of collaboration, rather than competition, and create a global solution to address a global problem.