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Want To Be Part Of A World Super-Weather-Computer?

D.I.Y climate prediction

Ever fancied yourself as a climate scientist? Well, now you can have a go at being one with the launch of the world’s largest climate prediction experiment at the Science Museum in London and the BA Festival of Science in Salford on Friday 12 September 2003 (British Standard Time).

The experiment will use the combined power of participants’ personal computers to generate the world’s most comprehensive probability-based forecast of twenty-first-century climate. Computer users anywhere in the world can participate by downloading a global climate model from http://www.climateprediction.net.

This is a collaborative effort between the Universities of Oxford and Reading, the U.K. Meteorological Office, the Open University, the CCLRC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, and Tessella Support Services plc. In New Zealand the National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research (NIWA) and Victoria University of Wellington (VUW) are helping host the distribution of model software.

‘Each participant in the experiment runs their own unique version of the Met Office’s state-of-the-art climate model, simulating several decades of the Earth’s climate at a time,’ said NIWA climate scientist Jim Renwick. ‘The model runs in the background on ordinary desktop computers, so it won’t affect your other computing tasks.’

‘At the end of the experiment the results are sent back via the Internet, where the simulations of present climate and past changes will be used to test different model versions. The most realistic models will then be used to predict the climate of the twenty-first century.’

Scientists are unable to predict which versions of the model will work without running these simulations – and there are far too many for them to run them by themselves. Participants’ results will provide an overall picture of how much human activity has contributed to recent climate change, and what possible changes we can expect in the future.

Although many model studies in the past have made plausible predictions of climate change, scientists have not been able to measure their confidence in these predictions. Now they hope to be able to say, for the first time, what the climate probably will – and will not – do in the future.

The climateprediction.net experiment has a strong education component, and is an ideal resource for school and college projects. Web-based educational materials are currently being developed, and all participants will be able to fly around their programmed planet and watch how weather patterns change.

‘Improved understanding and tighter bounds on the uncertainties in climate change forecasts will help us get a better handle on what is likely to happen over coming decades. The climateprediction.net experiment should improve scientific understanding of one of the biggest potential global problems of the twenty-first century.’

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