../shake/Science Notes  -- Summer 1998
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IF A MODEL ever succeeds in describing the ancient climate, it will have passed an important test. The model is tuned for the present day, but if the physical laws that governed the planet were the same 55 million years ago, the model should predict the paleoclimate when it's supplied with correct descriptions of such aspects as the land elevation and greenhouse-gas quantities. If those physical laws held true millions of years ago, chances are good that they will in the future as well. "There's a real advantage to testing predictions near the edge of the envelope of understanding," says Wing. A model that can "predict" the conditions of past eras as well as the present may also succeed in predicting the climate of the future.
      In his office at UC Santa Cruz, Wing waits for spring weather. He looks forward to spending weeks in Wyoming collecting new fossils that may add a few tiny pieces to the Paleocene climate puzzle. Suddenly, Sloan rushes in to show him results of her latest model study, involving clouds. By working together to decipher an unfamiliar past, they hope to produce something even more powerful: a model that can describe our future climate.

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