Document Preview
  • Full Text
  • Scholarly Journals

Climate prediction as an initial value problem

Full text preview


One set of commonly used definitions of weather and climate distinguishes these terms in the context of prediction: weather is considered an initial value problem, while climate is assumed to be a boundary value problem. Another perspective holds that climate and weather prediction are both initial value problems (Palmer 1998). If climate prediction were a boundary value problem, then the simulations of future climate will "forget" the initial values assumed in a model. The assumption that climate prediction is a boundary value problem is used, for example, to justify predicting future climate based on anthropogenic doubling of greenhouse gases. This correspondence proposes that weather prediction is a subset of climate predictions and that both are, therefore, initial value problems in the context of nonlinear geophysical flow. The consequence of climate prediction being an initial value problem is summarized in this correspondence.

The boundaries in the context of climate prediction are the ocean surface and the land surface. If these boundaries are fixed in time, evolve independently of the atmosphere such that their time evolution could be prescribed, or have response times that are much longer than the time period of interest in the climate prediction, than one may conclude that climate prediction is a boundary problem.

Lorenz (1979) proposed the concept of forced and free variations of weather and climate. He refers to forced variations as those caused by external conditions, such as changes in solar irradiance. Volcanic aerosols also cause forced variations. He refers to free variations as those that "are generally assumed to take place independently of any changes in external conditions." Day-to-day weather variations are presented as an example of free variations. He also suggests that "free climatic variations in which the underlying surface plays an essential role may therefore be physically possible."

There have been no...