IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group I: The Physical Science Basis

8.1 Introduction and Overview

The goal of this chapter is to evaluate the capabilities and limitations of the global climate models used elsewhere in this assessment. A number of model evaluation activities are described in various chapters of this report. This section provides a context for those studies and a guide to direct the reader to the appropriate chapters.

8.1.1 What is Meant by Evaluation?

A specific prediction based on a model can often be demonstrated to be right or wrong, but the model itself should always be viewed critically. This is true for both weather prediction and climate prediction. Weather forecasts are produced on a regular basis, and can be quickly tested against what actually happened. Over time, statistics can be accumulated that give information on the performance of a particular model or forecast system. In climate change simulations, on the other hand, models are used to make projections of possible future changes over time scales of many decades and for which there are no precise past analogues. Confidence in a model can be gained through simulations of the historical record, or of palaeoclimate, but such opportunities are much more limited than are those available through weather prediction. These and other approaches are discussed below.