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Another example it the Community Earth System Model (CESM), started by National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in the US in the early 1980s. As its name suggests, the model is a product of a collaboration between thousands of scientists (and is freely available to download and run).

The fact that there are numerous modelling centres around the world going through similar processes is a “really important strand of climate research”, says Dr Chris Jones , who leads the Met Office Hadley Centre’s research into vegetation and carbon cycle modelling and their interactions with climate. He tells Carbon Brief:

“There are maybe the order of 10 or 15 kind of big global climate modelling centres who produce simulations and results. And, by comparing what the different models and the different sets of research say, you can judge which things to have confidence in, where they agree, and where we have less confidence, where there is disagreement. That guides the model development process.”

If there was just one model, or one modelling centre, there would be much less of an idea of its strengths and weaknesses, says Jones. And while the different models are related – there is a lot of collaborative research and discussion that goes on between the groups – they do not usually go to the extent of using the same lines of code. He explains:

“When we develop a new [modelling] scheme, we would publish the equations of that scheme in the scientific literature, so it’s peer reviewed. It’s publicly available and other centres can compare that with what they use.”

Below, Carbon Brief has mapped the climate modelling centres that contributed to the fifth Coupled Model Intercomparison Project ( CMIP5 ), which fed into the IPCC’s fifth assessment report . Mouse over the individual centres in the map to find out more about them.

The majority of modelling centres are in North America and Europe. However, it is worth noting that the CMIP5 list is not an exhaustive inventory of modelling centres – particularly as it focuses on institutions with global climate models. This means the list does not include centres that concentrate on regional climate modelling or weather forecasting, says Jones:

“For example, we do a lot of collaborative work with Brazil, who concentrate their GCMs on weather and seasonal forecasting. In the past, they have even used a version of HadGEM2 to submit data to CMIP5. For CMIP6 they hope to run the Brazil Earth system model (‘BESM’).”

The extent to which each modelling centre’s computer code is publicly available differs across institutions. Many models are available under licence to the scientific community at no cost. These generally require signing of a licence that defines the terms of use and distribution of the code.

For example, the ECHAM6 GCM developed by the Mens Ribbed Cashmere Hat The Elder Statesman aQ0Y5
in Germany is available under a licence agreement (pdf), which stipulates that use of its software “is permitted only for lawful scientific purposes in research and education” and “not for commercial purposes”.

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