Models Methods Software

Dan Hughes

The Fundamental Issue

The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report (AR4, IPCC, 2007) states:

“A major advance of this assessment of climate change projections compared with the TAR is the large number of simulations available from a broader range of models. Taken together with additional information from observations, these provide a quantitative basis for estimating likelihoods for many aspects of future climate change.” [ My bolding. ]

Do the numbers from these “large number of simulations available from a broader range of models” GCM calculations have any Meaning. My answer is No.

One crucial and necessary first step is that application of Verification procedures have shown that the numbers produced by the software accurately reflect both (1) the original intent of the continuous equations for the models, and (2) the numerical solution methods applied to the discrete approximations to the continuous equations. That is, Verification shows that the equations have been solved right. Do the numbers actually satisfy the Verified-to-be-correct-as-coded discrete equations and do the solutions of the discrete equations converge to solution of the continuous equations. Neither of these has been demonstrated for any GCM. I will be pleased to be shown to be wrong on this point.

All software can be Verified. Objective technical criteria and associated success metrics can be developed and applied in a manner that provides assurances about the correctness of the coding of the equations and their numerical solutions. Lack of Verification leaves open the potential that the numbers from the software are simply results of “bugs” in the coding.

The present-day software development community, in all kinds of applications and organizations, is keenly aware that lack of SQA policies and procedures, and successful applications of these to the software, leaves open a significant potential for problems to exist in the software. So far as I am aware, there are no precedents whatsoever for public policy decisions to be based on software for which no SQA procedures have been applied.


December 8, 2008 - Posted by | Calculation Verification, Verification | , , ,

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