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NIWA seeks volunteers for climate science experiment

NIWA seeks volunteers for climate science experiment

A citizen science experiment for weather enthusiasts that participants can undertake from the comfort of home is being launched on Wednesday by NIWA, in collaboration with researchers from the UK and Australia.
Volunteers are now being sought to participate in Weather@home ANZ, a project that will enable members of the public to contribute to scientists’ understanding of how climate change might be affecting weather in New Zealand and Australia.

All you need to take part is a computer and Internet connection.

NIWA climate scientist and Weather@home New Zealand programme leader Dr Suzanne Rosier says the aim of the project initially is to improve understanding of how extreme weather conditions such as heatwaves and drought may be changing.

It works by participants volunteering the spare processing power on their computers to crunch weather data from a state-of-the-art global climate model that includes a finely detailed regional model over Australia and New Zealand.

The results are returned automatically to the project although participants can opt to track progress as the model runs via an interactive graphic.

Dr Rosier says the computing power harnessed in this way from thousands of volunteers is phenomenal.

“It enables scientists to run these global and regional climate models many thousands of times – far more than would be possible with conventional computing resources.

“That is what is needed when attempting to address problems involving extremely rare weather events and enables scientists to put some hard numbers on how the risks of these events might be changing,” Dr Rosier said.

For example, last year’s drought was one of the most extreme of the past 70 years with almost 80 days without rain on average over the North Island – far more than recorded previously.

“Events like last summer’s drought are rare but the frequency of them could be changing. Scientists want to find out how the risks of such events might be changing with human-induced climate change, and the Weather@home experiment enables us to do just that.”

Flooding in Golden Bay and Nelson in December 2011 – and this month’s floods in Christchurch -- can also be better understood via Weather@home ANZ.

Weather@home ANZ is a collaboration among NIWA, the University of Oxford, the UK Met Office, the University of Melbourne and the University of Tasmania, with financial support from Microsoft Research. It is part of project, based in Oxford, which has been running highly successfully for the past 10 years.

In the UK, participants are helping to discover whether this year’s floods are linked to climate change.

The more people who participate, the more science can be done, Dr Rosier said.

If you would like to take part please go to: or to register.


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