Most climate researchers believe that climate change will profoundly impact both our planet’s environment and the world’s economic and geopolitical landscape in the coming decades. Since these impacts have the potential to effect everyone, a basic knowledge of the Earth’s climate system is critical in order to make informed judgments about climate-related issues. To achieve that goal, educators need resources to engage their students in the scientific and technological processes scientists use to forecast climate change.
Computer-driven global climate models (GCMs) are one of the primary tools used today in climate research, but until now they could not have been much more than a “black box” to the general public. As a practical matter, few educators have had access to GCMs, which typically required supercomputing facilities and skilled programmers to run. The resulting lack of familiarity with climate modeling techniques has often engendered public distrust of important scientific findings based on such methodologies.
EdGCM changes all this by providing a research-grade GCM with a user-friendly interface that can be run on a desktop computer. For the first time, students can explore the subject of climate change in the same way that actual research scientists do. In the process of using EdGCM, students will become knowledgeable about a topic that will surely affect their lives, and we will better prepare the next generation of scientists who will grapple with a myriad of complex climate issues.
Our goal is to improve the quality of teaching and learning of climate-change science through broader access to GCMs, and to provide appropriate technology and materials to help educators use these models effectively. With research-quality resources in place, linking classrooms to actual research projects is not only possible, but can also be beneficial to the education and research communities alike.
The EdGCM Project has been supported at times by the National Science Foundation’s Paleoclimate Program and NASA’s Earth Systems Directorate. We gratefully acknowledge the help of the scientists and programmers at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies who have worked for decades developing Global Climate Models, including the model at the core of EdGCM. Model development at GISS is supported by NASA’s Climate Program.