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Fourth Edition Discussion

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The fourth edition is at the printers and should be shipping in April. The new edition includes links to internet resources. Occasionally, stuff on the internet gets changed and the links break. Let us know here and we'll fix them or replace with a suitable equivalent if possible.
Let us know if you're having issues with a QR code. All of them have a 'code' such as 'k201'. Cite this in your post so we know which code you're having issues with. We can't control external sites, but we can fix up when minor changes happen.

A word from the authors

The Climate Modelling Primer (CMP) has evolved very much since the first edition was published in 1987.  Today ‘The Climate Modelling Primer’ operates as a guide to the rules and riddles of climate change science for those who need to know how models work and what they can deliver.
The fourth edition (CMP4) aims to reach out by delivering information in a user-centred format.  We take as our premise that each reader (thoughtful citizens and our political leaders) hopes to increase their understanding of climate models and:
• Become familiar with the history of climate modelling and understand its aims for the future;
• Understand how climate models are used in simulations of past, future and current climates at a variety of scales;
• Be able to assess a wide range of communication forms employed to share results from climate model simulations with different audiences;
• Recognize the variety of confidence and uncertainty measures associated with climate model outputs and know how to interpret them; and policy, laws, international trade and human development.
The fourth edition of The Climate Modelling Primer has many new features

For example it employs practical exercises to engage readers.
i Practical communication about climate modelling: Learning by doing
In all aspects of life, nothing better aids understanding than the process of trying to explain something to someone else. We have an undisguised second motive in making these suggestions – we hope that readers of our ’Primer’ will assist in widening community appreciation of all that climate models can do – and all they cannot!
The CMP4 also invites readers to collect a ‘Treasure Chest’.

• Treasures of climate modelling

We invite reader review and involvement with the CMP4 following the topics: R – Reasons for climate modelling; S- Signposts to understanding; and T- Treasures of climate model discovery and insight.  To encouragement personal learning we are employing an old technique that may be unexpected in this context: a collector’s chest.  The goal is that as you read the Primer you collect climate-modelling treasures: a small set of illustrations that you find persuasive, pretty and memorable.

Downloadable, easy-to-use climate models to explore concepts

As with all the previous editions of ‘The Primer’ we offer free simple models to run.

The downloadable models can be found on These range from our 1987 (much copied but still very useful) simple Energy Balance Model (EBM) through to a 2013 model that illuminates anthropogenic climate change mitigation options. This version of Stocker’s model calculates the required emission reduction rate (% per year) as a function of the desired climate target and the start-date: temperature limit goals  are unachievable in the red area. 

We’re delighted to have added to CMP4 a set of ‘meet the modeller’ biographies.

i Biographies of people who are/ have been important in climate modelling
Our ‘meet the modeller’ bio boxes are genuine introductions to real people.  The first example we’ve chosen for the Preface may seem a little odd – our short biography is of Isaac Asimov.  We chose Dr Asimov for a couple of reasons, as well as the fact that we both love his science fiction.  Asimov has influenced people we mention in the Primer (read the bio to find out who).  He also pushes science to close to its limits in his concept of psychohistory: a series of mathematical laws by means of which one can predict the future of civilizations.  This idea is interesting today because we are now asking how far into unexpected and so far unexplored domains might climate models be useful: to predict human health, to construct policy about limits to population growth, or to frame political debate about geoengineering?
i Boxed Features about Climate Modelling  

As well as new ‘Bio’ boxes and tricky technical (mathematical) material boxes, ‘The Climate Modelling Primer’ eight sets of explanatory boxes that involve the reader in thought, further study or research:

1.     Speed Dating: Meet a Model  - a very quick ‘meet & greet’ of a real model
2.     CSI (climate simulation intrigues) in sets of 4 per chapter
3.     Climate Model Validation – comparing observations and model results
4.     Spotlight – Probing one aspect of important climate modelling papers        
5.     Climate Model Communication: ideas to tempt climate model sharing        
6.     Feedback diagrams – collecting components
7.     Wiring the World – describing relationships
8.     Showcases – climate model paper highlight at the end of each chapter.
Readers can follow each of these threads (for example the Feedback Diagrams) through the book.  Taking such a path through CMP4 offers a truly novel view of the art and the science of climate modelling.  Look out for the icon in the corners of the boxes.

i Chapter Summaries
At the end of every chapter of CMP4 we offer a two-part set of exercises: the first part are questions that can be answered – say in a report or essay.  The second part contains more open-ended questions to prompt discussion.  This is also the very last section of the book – reviewing and reflecting on learning gained from the book as a whole.


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Details of QR codes

The QR codes in the fourth edition operate through this web page The names of the codes is a simple count with a prefix ‘k’ so that k001 is the first QR, located in the Preface, while k610 is the tenth QR in Chapter 6 and the last in the book. From time to time the web links to selected items fails and so our QR codes don’t point where we hoped.

Details of all the links are in this PDF file

We try to keep track of these and replace the broken links with either alternative locations or different but related items. We need your help to do this quickly. So, if you notice a link not working or not going where you expect, please let us know – on the CMP web page or by email to

Also, please note that while all these links should work on web browsers, some use Flash and don't work fully on some hand-held devices (e.g. k103, k203, k211, k301, k601, k603 & k605). If your phone or tablet doesn’t take you to the full link try it on a computer-based web browser.

External links...

REALCLIMATE.ORG offers good scientific analysis of current climate change issues, sometimes relating to climate models and what they mean.

Climate Modelling 101 What are climate models and why are they important? A useful resource from the US National Academy of Sciences.

CLIMATEPREDICTION.NET offers a way for anyone to run a climate model on their desktop computer and to be a part of a huge community of climate modellers. Make those spare CPU cycles count!

SKEPTICAL_SCIENCE: a website that is skeptical about global warming skepticism: whether contrarians’ arguments have any basis from the peer reviewed scientific literature.

Climate change is no laughing matter—but maybe it should be. The topic is so critical that everyone, from students to policy-makers to voters, needs a quick and easy guide to the basics. The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change entertains as it educates, delivering a unique and enjoyable presentation of mind-blowing facts and critical concepts.