Math in the Natural Sciences

Math in Meteorology

What are some of the mathematics behind global warming?

There are plenty of mathematics and data behind the idea of global warming (or global climate change). In particular, forecasts of climate change are based on the mathematical interpretation of weather models—not just one, but many weather/climate models (more than 30 at this writing) that all seem to disagree with each other. In other words, in a way, mathematics has caused the global warming problem to become extremely controversial.

One mathematical field in particular that has caused an overall problem in the interpretation of global climate change—creating both the believers and deniers—is statistics. Some scientists claim that global warming advocates have skewed the data in their favor, and vice versa. The main problem is that the collection of sampled data has to be analyzed to show a real phenomena—not one inferred by a relatively small window of data collection or on very few data points. The real question many scientists ask is: do climate changes occur over the average lifetime of a human, or even every so many hundred years? Do changes in weather and climate come in cycles that are much longer than humans have collected data? For example, reliable weather data is considered to have only started within the last century—and thus, scientists can’t truly determine warming from human-related reasons versus a natural cycle.


A growing number of scientists believe that our planet is experiencing global warming, which, among other effects, is causing ice at the poles to melt and lead to rising sea levels.

Another fly in the ointment in determining global climate change is the use of computers and mathematics to determine changes (present and future) in the world’s atmosphere. Even if the physical models are correct, computers and mathematicians can’t solve the complex weather equations with the utmost confidence. This is because computers, no matter how advanced, cannot make enough computations that weather/ climate predictions need. In addition, there are, at this time, too much data and variables involved in determining the weather and climate change. Thus, in a strange way, both camps—the global climate change believers and naysayers—are correct, at least until computers can take in more data and humans can collect enough data to make the predictions and definitive statements on global warming more accurate.


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