Planet Earth is more than a giant rock in space. Our planet has an atmosphere and oceans, it has sea ice and ice sheets, and it has huge land masses with trees and marshes. This is the Earth system. Climate on Earth is all about how the energy from the sun moves within and between different parts of the Earth system.

Join us on a tour through the Earth’s climate – from the atmosphere, oceans and ice, to scientists who use climate models to better understand our home in space.

The Earth System


An Earth system model is like a laboratory where you can explore the Earth and compare your result with the observed situation. Several model experiments are conducted to see how the system is best represented, and experts from a long list of disciplines take part. Here we present some of the scientists and their experiments.

Volcanic eruptions are a wildcard in future climate projections

Ingo Bethke

Volcanoes are rarely included in simulations of future climate, because eruptions cannot be predicted.  Ingo Bethke used records of past volcanic eruptions from ice cores to insert a range of plausible volcanic events into future climate model projections.

Read more here.

Polar lows – a small, but dangerous phenomenon


Imagine being at sea in the high north winter time, and suddenly  be captured by strong winds, icing and heavy snowfall. There are tales of storms appearing out of nowhere, of a whole fleet of fishermen never coming home. Polar lows are still hard to forecast.

Oskar Landgren models polar lows and their appearance in future climates.

Read more here.

The increasing methane loop

Rona L. Thompson

– How sensitive are wetland methane emissions to changes in temperature and precipitation? This is an important question we need answer to get the model right, says Rona L. Thompson.

Thompson is working on inverse modelling for methane emissions in the high latitudes over the past decade.

Read more here.

Letting snow go with the wind

jensdebernard_2017_7143_300x223Over the sea ice in the Arctic and Antarctica, snow drifts off the ice and into the ocean. Does drifting snow lead to more or less sea ice?

Jens Boldingh Debernard experiments by turning snow drift on and off in the ice module of the Earth system model.

Read more here.

The way we use our space

Hanna Lee

Would you think that looking at a single leaf would have an effect on how you look at global climate?

Hanna Lee looks at individual leaves and sees the important role they play in their surroundings and the way in which we decide to use our land.

Read more here.

Making models more real

Inger Helene Karset. Foto: UiO

Inger Helene Karset uses climate models to study the effect of aerosols and clouds. An eruption from a volcano in 2014 allowed her to compare the clouds in the models with clouds in the real world.

Read more here.




Modeling the future

In 2081–2100, global mean surface temperatures are likely to be 0.3–4.8 degrees higher than in 1986–2005. This is the conclusion from the IPCCs fifth assessment report. The uncertainty in the projections may seem disturbingly large for anyone trying to plan ahead. In reality, the span is also a good thing. It means that many aspects of the physical world have been taken into account, as well as different scenarios for how society may develop. The largest contribution to uncertainty is human behavior.

A global team of global models

Climate research institutes around the world have their own climate models. Why? Any Earth system model is a simplification of the real world, and the researchers have to choose how to prioritize and perform these simplifications. By running all of these models, the collective results provide a better overview of the world than any single model could to.

Read more about how climate scientists cooperate when running model experiments here.

In the future greenhouse

Modeling how human beings behave is not easy. How can we know the most likely energy mix and distribution of wealth in 2074? We cannot. Instead, the CMIP5 and CMIP6 models are run several times, each time with a different increase in the greenhouse effect.

Read more about climate model scenarios here.

The Norwegian Earth System Model

NorESM is the Norwegian Earth System Model. Read more about it here.


Test your knowledge about the Earths climate


Explore the Earth System is a virtual exhibition of the climate system as seen by climate modelers.

The exhibition has been produced by EVA – Earth system modelling of climate Variations in the Anthropocene – a nationally coordinated collaborative research project funded by the Research Council of Norway. Text contributions: Elizabeth Farmer, Gudrun Sylte and Ellen Viste.


Geophysical Institute at the University of Bergen (UiB)
Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research (BCCR)

Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Centre (NERSC)
Norwegian Meteorological Institute (
Department of Geosciences at the University of Oslo (UiO)
Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU)
Center for International Climate and Environmental Research (CICERO)


Explore the Earth System website
Gudrun Sylte
Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research

EVA website:

EVA project leader
Prof. Dr. Christoph Heinze
University of Bergen, Geophysical Institute, Box 7803, 5020 Bergen, Norway
Phone: +47 55589844

EVA project co-leader
Prof. Dr. Trond Iversen
Norwegian Meteorological Institute, Oslo, Norway