February 26, 2021

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What is a climate modeling application that has a good balance between low price point, low system requirements, customizability, ease of use, accuracy and precision? : meteorology

4 min read


Since 2012 or so, I have always wanted to perform climatic simulations, however until now have never got to ask on a major online forum how. Specifically, I am requesting advice on what climate modeling software I should use for said simulations. Note that I don’t know a great deal about what is out there, and though I have been doing my own research, I’d appreciate the informed opinion of others.

Here are the aspects that I’d judge any climate modeling software based on (Note: I know full well that a climate model[ing application] that satisfies all of these criteria almost certainly doesn’t exist. I am just asking which comes closest to filling them.):

  1. First and foremost, while I have taken a couple of climate-related classes, I am not a research climatologist, I am a worldbuilder. I don’t want to ask done-to-death questions like “If emissions follow this track, how will Earth’s climate system change?”, I want to ask novel questions like “How would the climate of this place in California be changed by the presence of Lake Cahuilla?”, or “Would Esperanza be capable of growing trees if the Antarctic Ice Sheet were removed?”, or “Would any region on a partially-terraformed Mars with double the atmospheric pressure be capable of recording above-freezing night-time lows?”. Thus, the more characteristics are editable, the better. This includes, in order of priority:

    1. Terrain map.

    2. Water distribution and/or bathymetric map.

    3. Base albedo/heat capacity map.

    4. Greenhouse gas concentration.

    5. Orbital and rotational parameters.

    6. Amount and composition of non-greenhouse atmospheric gases (note that if the simulation doesn’t take into account the increase in the greenhouse effect with increased atmospheric pressure by pressure broadening, that knocks it an accuracy point).

    7. Gravity and size of world.

    8. Ability to adjust the salinity and its distribution in the water.

    9. Surface dust distribution map.

    10. Glacial thickness map.

    11. Solar spectrum.

    12. Everything else.

  2. It should preferably be able to take and output data using formats that normal people use, like PNG or human-readable text files, not only those like GeoTIFF and incomprehensible special-use formats. In other words, I want there to be as few additional programs and thus as little additional cost, hassle, and learning as possible to run the simulations and share their results to a general audience.

  3. I am a poor undergraduate university student. The maximum I’d be willing to pay without hesitation is about $70 (the price of a AAA video game), though I may be OK with upwards of $300 based on feature set. While an online application is acceptable, an application that the developers can remotely brick is less so. The dream is it would also be open-source.

  4. I have formal training in computing beyond basic computer literacy and a few AutoCAD classes. Basically the most advanced “languages” I know of are markup languages like MediaWiki, the basics of HTML/CSS, and the like. I can work a command line if needs be, but the easier to use, the better. Obviously.

  5. I want detailed simulations, but my computer sucks (it’s a Surface laptop which can never be expected to have less-than-half memory utilization), though I may be able to use a Thinkpad T15P with a GeForce GTX 1050 for the purpose. I do not, however, care about how long said simulation takes to execute—it could take two months, it’s not like I turn my computer off like I should. Thus, the software must be capable of trading speed for time to a huge degree, and preferably be tolerant of accidental shutdowns when operating.

  6. Possibly contradicting the price point, it should preferably produce reasonably accurate results. It should not, for example, when used without prior calibration output the climate of London as that of Happy Valley–Goose Bay or Osoyoos at similar latitudes.

  7. The information output should be comprehensive. At the absolute minimum, it should provide enough information to perform Köppen-Geiger climate analyses on, like the Wikipedia Template:Climate charts and the data provided by Climate-Data.org. Anything less than that is honestly effectively useless—if it just outputted average annual temperature, there’d be no way to directly distinguish a Turpan from a Quito; if it just outputted monthly mean temperatures there’d be no way to directly distinguish an Albuquerque, New Mexico from a Cairo, Illinois; if it only outputted precipitation by year climates in areas of Montenegro would be indistinguishable from those in the Southern Appalachians; et cetera. The more, the better; WRCC summary and PRISM data quality would be great, complete Wikipedia Template:Weather box quality would be awesome, and full WRCC/Weather Spark quality would make me… words probably not suitable for a meteorological forum.

  8. It should preferably be able to simulate both synoptic-scale climate and, for more restrictive scenarios, at a meso- or micro-scale, possibly with increased accuracy and resolution. Ideally, I’d like it to be able to simulate as detailed as Present and future Köppen-Geiger climate classification maps at 1-km resolution or the PRISM 800-meter-resolution grid, but I take it that’s pretty much a pipe dream. (Yes, I know these are extrapolations from existing data, at least in the former case from many datasets with different resolutions. In case I have to, to extrapolate for higher-resolutions, I would use similar methods—compare the model output with climate datasets at the same resolution, then apply the offset to a higher-resolution dataset, with lapse-rate calculations in case the topography is different—though this would almost certainly require more tools.)

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