Understanding the future of our planet’s climate is vital but it is easier said than done. To predict such complexity requires cutting-edge models and, according to University of Oxford physicist Tim Palmer, an understanding of chaos theory and supercomputing. Palmer will present a public lecture tonight at 7 P.M. Eastern time that will be broadcast live on this Web page, detailing the difficulties of predicting climate change and the need to embrace a degree of inexactness in modeling it.

Chaos theory is a field of mathematics that studies dynamic systems that can change drastically based on the smallest changes in their initial conditions. Because the future behavior of these systems is completely determined by their initial conditions, they are impossible to accurately predict. Weather and climate is a natural example of a deterministic, dynamic system. “If the flap of a butterfly’s wings can change the course of weather and climate,” Palmer wrote for the talk’s trailer, “what hope do we have trying to predict anything about climate 100 years hence?” Inexact supercomputing, which provides different results for the same input conditions, could be a way of modeling a chaotic system such as climate.

The talk, “Climate Change, Chaos and Inexact Computing,” is part of a public lecture series at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Ontario. Online viewers can pose questions by tweeting to @perimeter and using the #piLIVE hashtag.

You can view videos of some past Perimeter physics lectures below:
Shape-Shifting Particles: Mysterious Neutrinos [Video]
The Hunt for Dark Matter and Dark Energy [Video]
Strange, Dense Matter: The Power of Neutron Stars [Video]
How Radioactivity Can Benefit Your Health [Video]
The Promise of Optical Atomic Clocks: Watch Live Wednesday [Video]
The Astonishing Simplicity of Everything [Video]