The first African-based earth system model

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Climate change is the most serious collective environmental challenge ever faced by humankind. It is a problem with global reach, but the research effort to address it is disproportionately concentrated in the Northern Hemisphere and in developed countries. Prof Francois Engelbrecht, who leads climate studies, modelling and environmental health research at the CSIR, will showcase the progress made towards the development of the first African-based earth system model at the 5th CSIR conference in October.

Only one of the about thirty coupled ocean-atmosphere global circulation models and earth system models suitable for the projection of future climate change was developed in the Southern Hemisphere (at the CSIRO in Australia). However, Southern Hemisphere and African climate issues differ from those that drive the research and modelling efforts in the north. In particular, oceans dominate the Southern Hemisphere and the land is largely occupied by semi-arid systems and tropical forests.

The CSIR has in recent years embarked on the development of the first African-based earth system model. This multi-disciplinary effort is driven by CSIR experts in global change research in close collaboration with key international partners in Australia, Japan and France.

Engelbrecht’s presentation will showcase the progress made towards the development of the new model, called the Variable-resolution Earth System Model. He will present recently obtained simulations of this model, within the context of the five main thrusts of the model development effort: the simulation of convective rainfall over Africa, aerosol-climate feedbacks over Africa, dynamic land-surface modelling, ocean-atmosphere feedbacks and Southern Ocean biochemistry and its coupling to ocean dynamics and physics. Engelbrecht will demonstrate that the research team is well positioned to use the model to make the first African-based contributions to the assessment reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, emphasising the key role of the CSIR’s Centre for High Performance Computing in providing computational capacity.

See video: The impact of climate change in Southern Africa

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