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  • Print publication year: 2021
  • Online publication date: June 2021

8 - Conceptual Models of Climate Change and Prediction, and How They Relate to Floods and Fires


The amount of energy in the upper ocean is increasing very rapidly. Between 2014 and 2019, the global heat energy increase was equivalent to the energy released by about 12 million one-megaton nuclear bombs. But global warming does not produce an even warming of the world’s oceans. Rather, extra energy builds up and moves around in complex ways. Understanding this fact can save lives. In the near term, this recognition can lead to successful forecasts. In the longer term, this recognition will help us reduce our emissions because we can recognize now how climate change is contributing to extreme weather and catastrophes. For example, in October and November 2019, the western Indian Ocean reached the highest levels of warmth ever observed, while the eastern Indian Ocean was anomalously cold. This combination contributed to extreme flooding and locust outbreaks in East Africa and exceptionally warm and dry conditions over southern Africa and Australia. An accurate conceptual model of climate change can create opportunities for prediction. Adopting an incorrect conception of climate change as the average of collections of climate simulations can cause us to miss these opportunities.

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