Historical Topics

The history of atmospheric GCMs encompasses a substantial amount of diverse material. Listed below are some examples of historical topics of interest. If you have comments concerning any of these topics, or would like to comment on other topics in the area, please send your comments to the site editor.


Topic 1: AGCM Pioneers

Who, in your recollection, were the most important AGCM pioneers, and why? What is your memory of the relations among the earliest modeling groups, in the late 1950s and early 1960s? Why did Andrew Gilchrist's work at the UK Met Office receive so little attention prior to the mid-1970s? What is your view of the historical significance of Cecil "Chuck" Leith's early modeling work at Lawrence Livermore Laboratories? Are there other important pioneers whose contributions remain unrecognized?

Topic 2: AGCMs Outside the United States

Who should be remembered as the pioneers of general circulation modeling outside the United States? When did laboratories in the UK, Germany, Sweden, Japan, and elsewhere first build their own AGCMs? What were the earliest origins of the ECMWF?

Topic 3: The Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory Model Series

Do the descriptions of the GFDL GCM series correctly reflect your recollections? Which of these models were most important, and why? When and how were they shared with other modeling groups? Conversely, what did GFDL modelers borrow from others?

Topic 4: The NCAR Community Climate Model Series

The NCAR CCM model series represented an unusually large group effort. What were the ramifications of NCAR's attempt to meet the needs of such a large and diverse set of users? How (if at all) did NCAR's public service role affect the design of the CCM series? How did building the CCM affect NCAR as an institution? Were financial, political, or other extra-scientific constraints important in the decision to move away from multiple models toward a single, collective one?

Topic 5: The UCLA Model Series

The Mintz/Arakawa AGCM series has been among the most influential, in part because it was very widely borrowed. Why did this happen? What made the UCLA model more transportable than others (or were other factors at work)?

Topic 6: The AGCM Family Tree

Does the AGCM Family Tree accurately capture the movement of models from one group to another? What additions, corrections, and/or comments do you have? Is this a useful method of displaying their relationships, or does it oversimplify a highly complex process?

Topic 7: Spectral Transform Techniques

Which group(s) were the first to adopt spectral transform techniques, and why? How did they spread? How did you view these techniques at the time they first came into use? What effects did they have on model design and model output?

Topic 8: Computer Power and AGCM Evolution

How much does computer power matter to true understanding of the atmosphere? Has ever-expanding computer power consistently improved model results? Or has it in some sense hindered understanding of the physics, by focusing too much attention on programming rather than empirical investigation and refinement of underlying concepts?

Topic 9: AGCMs and Climate Politics

What was the role of general circulation modeling (and modelers) in the origins of climate politics? In the late 1960s and early 1970s, were modelers seriously concerned about climate change? Or did it serve them merely as a convenient "issue handle" on which to hang requests for more research funding? How seriously did political actors and laboratory leaders take the threat of climate change? What influence did the evolving political agenda have on the nature of GCM experimentation &emdash; particularly on the emergence of the carbon dioxide doubling experiment as a de facto standard in climate modeling?

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