Various types of numerical model are used to study the mechanisms of the atmospheric circulation, climate processes and weather forecasting. These include vertical column models of radiative and convective processes, one- and two-dimensional energy balance models and complete three-dimensional general circulation models (GCMs) which can be coupled with ocean and sea-ice models or with regional climate models. While initially developed for weather forecasting such models are now used widely to study climatic anomalies and past and future changes of global climate. These uses require coupling of atmospheric and oceanic GCMs and the representation of ice and land surface processes.

Forecasts are issued for different timescales and the techniques involved differ considerably. Immediate 'nowcasts' rely heavily on current radar and satellite data. Short- and intermediate-range forecasts are now derived from numerical models with some statistical guidance while long-range forecasts use numerical models in an almost completely probabilistic manner.

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