Brazil develops global climate change model | AGÊNCIA FAPESP

A tropical cyclone on the Brazilian coast in 2004 (NASA/GSFC)

Brazil develops global climate change model

March 20, 2013

By Elton Alisson

Agência FAPESP – Few countries today play a leading role in scientific advances in climate modeling. Most of these countries – the United States, for example – are in the Northern Hemisphere. Australia was the only country in the Southern Hemisphere with this capacity. However, after developing its own climate models for 30 years, the country abandoned its efforts in the area, opting to import and help to improve a model developed by the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research in Great Britain.

Now, Brazil has filled the void left by Australia, joining the select group of countries capable of developing a model, validating it and simulating global climate changes.

Researchers from several member institutions, participating in the FAPESP Research Program on Global Climate Change (PFPMCG), the Network of Brazilian Research on Global Climate Change (Rede Clima) and the National Science and Technology Institute on Climate Change (INCT- MC), have completed the preliminary version of the Brazilian Earth System Model (BESM).

Some of the first results of simulations conducted with the new model were presented at the Workshop on BESM held on February 19 at FAPESP.

“Brazil’s decision to face the challenge of developing its own system model of global climate change rather than importing an existing model and applying it was made with the strategic objective of building a network of researchers capable of operating in all dimensions of the construction of a model of this nature, from development to validation and simulation,” comments Carlos Nobre, secretary of research and development programs at the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MCTI), member of the coordination team at FAPESP Research Program on Global Climate Change (PFPMCG) and one of the architects of BESM.

According to Nobre and other researchers attending the event, one of the main contributions of the new Brazilian Earth System Model to international efforts to advance climatic, environmental and atmospheric sciences will be to examine several Southern Hemisphere-specific issues and to represent certain important environmental processes for Brazil and other South American countries that are considered secondary in international climate models.

These focal issues include fires, which can intensify the greenhouse effect and change the characteristics of rain and clouds in a given region, and the deforestation of Amazonia.

“Because it is the Brazilian scientific community in the area of climate modeling that is developing this new Earth system model, it is to a certain extent more logical and even easier for these individuals to introduce a model of these phenomena, which are more typical of South America,” evaluates Nobre.

According to Nobre, BESM is intended to be an open platform in which several hypotheses about processes that occur in South America, the Atlantic Ocean and Antarctica, for example, can be tested by researchers from the area in fields related to climatic and environmental sciences.

“The objective was to build a climate model with Brazilian competence that can be incorporated as the country’s contribution to the construction of a global Earth system model, which we intend to create in the next few years,” comments Nobre.

“In the future, there will be a global Earth modeling system that will make it possible for a researcher to create climate models with modules of interest to test his/her hypothesis,” he estimates.

Climate forecasts

The Brazilian Earth System Model will also be used to determine public policy in Brazil for the country’s adaptation to the impacts of global climate change. According to the Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX), which was recently released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the frequency of extreme climate events worldwide has increased over the past few decades due to climate change.

At the end of March 2004, for example, the southern region of Brazil was hit by Hurricane Catarina, the first Class 1 storm (with winds reaching 119 to 153 kilometers per hour and sea elevation levels between 1.2 to 1.6 meters) ever recorded in the country.

“The new model is also intended to improve the seasonal climate forecasting conditions in Brazil,” comments Paulo Nobre, researcher at the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), one of the project coordinators.

First results

According to the researcher, the development of the new model allowed the improvement of precipitation forecasts for the South Atlantic and South America. “It is very difficult to improve the predictability of precipitation in the South Atlantic. With the new model, however, there was generalized improvement in the forecast for the surface temperature of the waters of the South Atlantic, as well as South America,” he affirmed.

Another result of the implementation of the model was the discovery that the deforestation of Amazonia increases the probability of El Niño (a phenomenon characterized by abnormal heating of surface waters in the tropical Pacific Ocean, capable of affecting the regional and global climate).

“This result had been anticipated because the model would be capable of verifying it, even as a preliminary low-resolution result,” commented Paulo Nobre. According to the researcher, the model is also capable of predicting the capacity for rain formation in the South Atlantic Convergence Zone (SACZ), a region with an elongated axis of clouds formed from the Amazon region and Central and Southeast Brazil to the Atlantic Ocean. Until now, existing models have been incapable of forecasting the capacity for rain formation in this region.

Brazil also gained the capacity to forecast changes in the planet’s marine ice formations.

“For the first time, the country has the capacity to forecast the advance or retreat of marine ice formations, not only in the Southern Hemisphere, where there is difficulty forecasting changes in ice formations, but also in other parts of the planet,” said Nobre.

“The model has forecast, for example, the latest findings on the reduction in Arctic glaciers, and this successful forecast gives us signs that we are on the right path,” he said.



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