Parallel Computing in the Computer Science Curriculum > Workshops > SIGCSE 2012 > SIGCSE 2012 > Exploring Temperature Change Caused by Greenhouse Gas Increases

Exploring Temperature Change Caused by Greenhouse Gas Increases using the EdGCM Climate Modeling Suite.

Homepage for the EdGCM project at Columbia University

Surface Air Temperature Global Avgs Surface Air Temperature, Time Series of global annual averages

Access version of EdGCM used for the 2009 AccessData Workshop and some sample GCM output (

Surface Air Temperature Anomaly Surface Air Temperature Anomaly

Prepared by: Mark Chandler of NASA/GISS-Columbia University; Linda Sohl of CCSR/GISS at Columbia University; Betsy Youngman, principal author of associated EET chapter.

The Dataset

Model Description
EdGCM is a suite of software that allows users to create, run, analyze, visualize and report on global climate model simulations via a user-friendly interface. Users can run pre-created simulations (i.e. "canned") or create their own. All simulation meta-data that is generated during an EdGCM project is stored in a local, searchable data base. EdGCM uses the NASA/GISS Model II Global Climate Model (Hansen et al., 1983, Monthly Weather Review). The full publication is included in the EdGCM Documentation folder.

Simulation Description
1. Modern_PredictedSST: modern climate control run with sea surface temperatures computed during experiment

2. Global_Warming_01: global warming simulation based on transient increase in CO2 (see CO2 trend section of EdGCM Simulation Setup)

Data Description
1. IPCC greenhouse gas scenario data for scenario A1FI

2. Student generated greenhouse gas scenario data from EdGCM Simulation Setup

3. Standard output from the NASA/GISS Model II GCM and additional post-processed output from EdGCM:

Use and Relevance

Scientists are using global climate models to project what future temperatures might be like on Earth given the continuing build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere caused by fossil fuel emission increases. Future temperature increases, themselves a component of our changing climate, also lead to other climate changes that could impact humans, wildlife and the environment. Such changes include melting ice caps, sea level rise, and increases in both floods and drought, among others.

Use in Teaching

These data can be used to teach or learn the following topics and skills in weather and climate courses, general earth science, geography, or any course where future climate change or global warming is a learning topic.


Global Warming
Climate Impacts of Increasing Atmospheric CO@
Global Climate Models
Using Models: Setting Up Experiments, Running a Model, Post-Processing Output, Scientific Visualization, Creating Scientific Reports for Publication


Exploring the Data

Data Type and Presentation

Data are generated during the running of the global climate model. EdGCM allows students to post-process the raw output themselves and generate their own tables, plots and maps for analysis and reporting.

Accessing the Data

The EdGCM software comes with the global warming and modern "control" experiments pre-set for immediate running. Running the experiments then creates the raw data and EdGCM facilitates post-processing and visualization. Raw and post-processed GCM output is available also from the EdGCM Project.
EdGCM software is sold for non-commercial educational use only by Columbia University.

Manipulating Data and Creating Visualizations

The EdGCM Suite includes two visualization applications. EVA and Panoply – both can be used to create global projections (maps) of the data. EVA can be used to create time series plots or the time series data (and other data) can be opened in Microsoft Excel for viewing and graphing. Some data tables are provided in html format and can be viewed with a web browser.

Tools for Data Manipulation

The EdGCM Software Suite is an all-inclusive package that allows users to setup and run one of NASA's global climate models. Users can also post-process the output for use in the two included scientific visualization applications. Some output is generated in formats for use with Microsoft Excel, web browsers, or other spreadsheet and graphical visualization software.

Acronyms, Initials, and Jargon

CO2 – Carbon Dioxide
GCM – Global Climate Model
.ncdf – data suffix for netCDF data, which is a format commonly used for gridded atmospheric data and which, among other uses, can be plotted by several types of visualization software.
EdGCM – The Educational Global Climate Modeling Suite
EVA – EdGCM Visualization Application
NASA/GISS – National Aeronautics and Space Administration Goddard Institute for Space Studies
CCSR – Center for Climate System Research at Columbia University

About the Data

Collection Methods

Data are simulated using the NASA/GISS Model II Global Climate Model (GCM). Post-processing is required to extract the surface air temperature and other variables used in this exercise.

Limitations and Sources of Error

All GCMs have errors that arise from many sources, such as imperfectly observed initial conditions, which are used to initiate simulations, the lack of a complete quantitative understanding of the physics of some components of the climate system, and the numerical simplifications that are required when simulating complex physical systems with limited computing power.

References and Resources

Education Resources that Use this Dataset

EdGCM Global Warming Exercise
EdGCM Workshop Guide
Envisioning Climate Change Using a Global Climate Model, an Earth Exploration Toolbook chapter that utilized the EdGCM suite.

Other Related Scientific References

Hansen et al., 1983
IPCC AR4, Other global warming articles
Over a thousand scientific publications referring to the GISS GCM Model II (used by EdGCM) are available at: {search for "Model II"}

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