Global Climate Modeling

The climate modeling program at GISS is primarily aimed at the development of coupled atmosphere-ocean models for simulating Earth's climate system. Primary emphasis is placed on investigation of climate sensitivity —globally and regionally, including the climate system's response to diverse forcings such as solar variability, volcanoes, anthropogenic and natural emissions of greenhouse gases and aerosols, paleo-climate changes, etc.

A major focus of GISS GCM simulations is to study the human impact on the climate as well as the effects of a changing climate on society and the environment. The GISS GCM is prominently featured in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports (the upcoming AR6 as well as past reports), and over 50 TB of climate model results have been publicly archived for the 5th Coupled Model Intercomparison Project. This project has included simulations for the historic period, future simulations out to 2300, and past simulations for the last 1000 years, the last glacial maximum and the mid-Holocene.

GCM developmental research focuses on sensitivity to parameterizations of clouds and moist convection, ground hydrology, and ocean-atmosphere-ice interactions. We have a specific focus on the climate interactions of atmospheric composition (via aerosols and gas phase chemistry) both as a response to climate and as a mechanism for climate change. The program also involves the application of satellite simulator software (COSP simulator package) that creates model output compatible with the retrievals of the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP) as well as CloudSat, CALIPSO, MODIS, and other satellite instruments. Ongoing field and laboratory programs in palynology, paleoclimate reconstruction, and other geophysical sciences provide fundamental climate data for evaluating model predictions.

Future expansions of this work include collaborative projects with other units of the Goddard Space Flight Center Earth Sciences Division and with the National Center for Atmospheric Research to include dynamic ice sheets in the models (to better constrain long term sensitivity and short term rises in sea level), oceanic and terrestrial carbon cycles, including ‘Ent’ a dynamic vegetation model, and further improvements to the stratospheric simulation so that the models can self-generate a Quasi-Biennial Oscillation. Current development is focused on the Cubed Sphere grid and dynamical core to improve the model simulations at higher resolution.

Models and References

The following is a list of benchmark publications for GISS global climate models in use during the past two decades. Note that the bulk of current GISS modeling efforts are performed using the ModelE series.

GISS Model E

Schmidt, G.A., R. Ruedy, J.E. Hansen, I. Aleinov, N. Bell, M. Bauer, S. Bauer, B. Cairns, V. Canuto, Y. Cheng, A. Del Genio, G. Faluvegi, A.D. Friend, T.M. Hall, Y. Hu, M. Kelley, N.Y. Kiang, D. Koch, A.A. Lacis, J. Lerner, K.K. Lo, R.L. Miller, L. Nazarenko, V. Oinas, J.P. Perlwitz, Ju. Perlwitz, D. Rind, A. Romanou, G.L. Russell, Mki. Sato, D.T. Shindell, P.H. Stone, S. Sun, N. Tausnev, D. Thresher, and M.-S. Yao, 2006: Present day atmospheric simulations using GISS ModelE: Comparison to in-situ, satellite and reanalysis data. J. Climate, 19, 153-192, doi:10.1175/JCLI3612.1.

Schmidt, G.A., M. Kelley, L. Nazarenko, R. Ruedy, G.L. Russell, I. Aleinov, M. Bauer, S.E. Bauer, M.K. Bhat, R. Bleck, V. Canuto, Y.-H. Chen, Y. Cheng, T.L. Clune, A. Del Genio, R. de Fainchtein, G. Faluvegi, J.E. Hansen, R.J. Healy, N.Y. Kiang, D. Koch, A.A. Lacis, A.N. LeGrande, J. Lerner, K.K. Lo, E.E. Matthews, S. Menon, R.L. Miller, V. Oinas, A.O. Oloso, J.P. Perlwitz, M.J. Puma, W.M. Putman, D. Rind, A. Romanou, M. Sato, D.T. Shindell, S. Sun, R.A. Syed, N. Tausnev, K. Tsigaridis, N. Unger, A. Voulgarakis, M.-S. Yao, and J. Zhang, 2014: Configuration and assessment of the GISS ModelE2 contributions to the CMIP5 archive. J. Adv. Model. Earth Syst., 6, no. 1, 141-184, doi:10.1002/2013MS000265.

Additional references related to ModelE may be found the ModelE software page.

GISS Middle Atmosphere Model and Model 3

Rind, D., R. Suozzo, N.K. Balachandran, A. Lacis, and G. Russell, 1988: The GISS Global Climate-Middle Atmosphere Model. Part I: Model structure and climatology. J. Atmos. Sci., 45, 329-370, doi:10.1175/1520-0469(1988)045<0329:TGGCMA>2.0.CO;2.

Rind, D., R. Suozzo, and N.K. Balachandran, 1988: The GISS Global Climate-Middle Atmosphere Model. Part II: Model variability due to interactions between planetary waves, the mean circulation and gravity wave drag. J. Atmos. Sci., 45, 371-386, doi:10.1175/1520-0469(1988)045<0371:TGGCMA>2.0.CO;2.

Rind, D., J. Lerner, J. Jonas, and C. McLinden, 2007: The effects of resolution and model physics on tracer transports in the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies general circulation models. J. Geophys. Res., 112, D09315, doi:10.1029/2006JD007476.

Rind, D., J. Lean, J. Lerner, P. Lonergan, and A. Leboissetier, 2008: Exploring the stratospheric/tropospheric response to solar forcing. J. Geophys. Res., 113, D24103, doi:10.1029/2008JD010114.

GISS Atmosphere-Ocean Model (GR)

Russell, G.L., J.R. Miller, and D. Rind, 1995: A coupled atmosphere-ocean model for transient climate change studies. Atmos.-Ocean, 33, 683-730.

Russell, G.L., 2007: Step-mountain technique applied to an atmospheric C-grid model, or how to improve precipitation near mountains. M. Weather Rev., 135, 4060-4076, doi:10.1175/2007MWR2048.1.

Russell, G.L., A.A. Lacis, D.H. Rind, C. Colose, and R.F. Opstbaum, 2013: Fast atmosphere-ocean model runs with large changes in CO2. Geophys. Res. Lett., 40, 5787-5792, doi:10.1002/2013GL056755.


Hansen, J., G. Russell, D. Rind, P. Stone, A. Lacis, S. Lebedeff, R. Ruedy, and L. Travis, 1983: Efficient three-dimensional global models for climate studies: Models I and II. M. Weather Rev., 111, 609-662, doi:10.1175/1520-0493(1983)111<0609:ETDGMF>2.0.CO;2.

Hansen, J., A. Lacis, D. Rind, G. Russell, P. Stone, I. Fung, R. Ruedy, and J. Lerner, 1984: Climate sensitivity: Analysis of feedback mechanisms. In Climate Processes and Climate Sensitivity, AGU Geophysical Monograph 29, Maurice Ewing Vol. 5. J.E. Hansen and T. Takahashi, Eds. American Geophysical Union, pp. 130-163.


Please address inquiries about global climate modeling at NASA GISS to Dr. Gavin Schmidt.

Related Links


Fortran 90 source code and documentiation for the ModelE series of coupled atmosphere-ocean models. These models have been used for our contribution to the CMIP3 and CMIP5 archives of model simulation results.
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ModelE Climate Simulations

Data products and related images obtained from several climate simulations and ensembles using the GISS ModelE.
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Fortran source code and documentation for the 1980s version of the GISS global climate model, used in the original NASA GISS global warming simulations described in Hansen et al. (1988). The code is maintained and distributed by the Columbia University EdGCM project.
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