Your PC AND climate change

 
Published: Friday 30 April 2004

www.climateprediction.net

Anyone with a personal computer can now lend a helping hand to scientists trying to figure out the complex problem of climate change. The site offers a downloadable climate prediction model that can be run on any computer, and the result used to improve forecasts about climate change.

Predictions from models about significant changes to the earth's climate lie in a huge range indicating uncertainty involved in the exercise. The climateprediction.net experiment, as it is called, attempts to narrow down this range. Uncertainty in prediction arises from the uncertainty existing in small-scale physical processes like cloud formation. Therefore, one model run with a certain set of parameters produces a single climate forecast; changing the value of even one parameter will change this forecast. The experiment aims to carry out a large number of model runs in which the parameters are varied within their current range of uncertainty. Those simulations, which fail to model past climate successfully, can be rejected and rest will be used to study future climate.

Each user of the downloadable model will become a part of this mammoth exercise where hundreds of thousands of models will help in representing the whole range of uncertainties in all parameters. According to the website, this technique, known as ensemble forecasting, requires an enormous amount of computing power, beyond the capacity of present supercomputers. The only practical solution is to combine the power of thousands of ordinary computers with each of them tackling one small but key part of the problem.

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