The NCAR Mesa Lab will be closed to the public on Saturday morning, July 20, until noon.

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What are the limits of modeling our planet?

Soon after their invention, scientists harnessed computers to serve as powerful mathematical “telescopes," enabling the investigation of problems that couldn’t be solved by human brainpower alone. These early explorations led to the discovery of chaos theory and soon thereafter to the modeling of that crucial, thin layer of fluids that enshrouds planet Earth – our atmosphere and oceans. These models produced improved weather forecasts, saving untold lives and property, and led to an understanding of the risks of continued greenhouse gas emissions, knowledge surely critical to sustaining human technological civilization.

What lies ahead for computing in atmospheric science? Today, the computing power once largely wielded by scientists is now in the hands of billions of people, readily accessible from any tablet or smartphone. Ideas like virtual reality, artificial intelligence, the internet of things and the cloud have leapt from science fiction and straight into consumer products. Science, which once led the charge in computing technology, is now both feeding off these macro trends and struggling to keep up. The road ahead will require us to rethink our approach to modeling, prediction, and delivering information to an increasingly wired society. This public talk will discuss some of the challenges and also provide a glimpse of the wonders that lie in store.