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model, yielding an increase in the accuracy of radiative process models as a result of more precise information about temperature gradients and exchanges of air[1].

While RC models offer an improvement in accuracy over simple radiative models (as a result of taking some dynamical processes into account), they are still far away from being robust enough to capture all the details of our complex climate. Beyond RC models, the field becomes increasingly differentiated and heterogeneous—in the last 30 years in particular, a large number of so-called “Earth models of intermediate complexity” (EMIC) have sprung up in the literature. It is impossible to characterize these models in any general way, as each is constructed for a very particular purpose—to model some very specific aspect of the global climate based on a parameterization that fixes other potentially relevant factors as (more or less) constant. As an example of the tremendous variability present in this class of models, EMICs include RC models that also model cloud formation (which is an important factor in determining albedo), sea-ice models that focus primarily on the surface processes that drive the formation (and break-up) of arctic and Antarctic ice, spatio-temporally constrained models of the short-term effect of volcanic aerosols on planetary albedo, and even ocean models that focus primarily on the procession of regular cycles of ocean temperatures and currents (e.g. the models used to predict the effects of the El Nino/Southern Oscillation on annual rainfall in the United States’ west coast). The EMIC represent a veritable zoo of wildly different models developed for wildly different purposes. The fact that all these can (apparently) peacefully coexist is worthy of philosophical interest, and warrants some consideration here[2].


  1. As we shall see, this practice of using the output of one kind of model as input for another model is characteristic of much of contemporary climate science.
  2. In addition, the policy implications of this diverse zoo of important models will be the primary topic of Chapter

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