Complex cloud simulations may be about to get simpler.
Simulating the behaviour of clouds is no easy task. Influenced by a huge range of factors acting on scales from the very large to the very small, they pose a challenge to scientists trying to understand how clouds will change under global warming, and how those changes in turn will affect the Earth’s temperature.
The image above is taken from a state-of-the-art mega-model of cloud formation called Giga-LES. It simulates a full 24 hours of atmospheric time over a 400-square-kilometre area at high resolution, and such is the complexity that one 24-hour simulation takes 300,000 hours of computer time to complete.
A new model, however, offers hope: a new model by US researchers uses simple thermodynamic principles to predict cloud behaviour, with results that match key predictions of cloud sizes and shapes from Giga-LES to within 13 percent using much less computer power.