Home computers power climate change research

April 14 / 132

A Univeristy computer running the weather at home Australia and New Zealand simulation for 2013.
A Univeristy computer running the weather at home Australia and New Zealand simulation for 2013.

Scientists from the University have been involved in the creation of a climate model simulation which gives home computer users the tools to help find the causes of record high temperatures and drought that hit Australia and New Zealand in 2013.

Any Australian with a home computer and an internet connection can sign up to the online climate experiment Weather at Home and create climate model simulations that produce 3D representations of weather for 2013. 

They can watch these simulations evolve in real time or let them run quietly in the background.

Weather at Home, has been created by a group of scientists from the University of Melbourne, the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, University of Oxford, the UK Met Office, the University of Tasmania, and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in NZ.

Professor David Karoly, Professor of Meteorology and an ARC Federation Fellow in the School of Earth Sciences, said the project is a leading example of citizen science, producing important scientific results that can be published in peer-reviewed scientific journals and which have powerful implications for the future.

“Through the Weather at Home application, home computer users can produce climate model simulations and help answer the question, ‘Did human-caused climate change play a role in the extreme heat events of 2013?’

“We need thousands of users, so we are encouraging people to sign up at the Weather at Home website,” Professor Karoly said.

The weather simulations produced by the personal computers for the experiment will be divided into two groups.

One will run simulations of weather in 2013 based on the current atmospheric composition with greenhouse gas emissions as they appear today. The other will simulate the weather in a pre industrial world where humans have not changed the atmosphere with greenhouse gas emissions.

These simulations can be run simultaneously across thousands of home computers. As each is completed and the results collated, the footprint of global warming will become clearer.

"With thousands of simulations we can see how often the extreme temperatures of 2013 appear when there are no additional greenhouse gases in our atmosphere .We can then compare those results to the simulations produced in an atmosphere that is like our own," said Professor  Karoly.

"This will reveal the patterns of global warming and give us a clear idea of how the risk of extreme events has changed with the rise in greenhouse gases."

Prof Karoly said this is only the first of many experiments that will use the Weather at Home application to assess the impacts of climate change in Australia and New Zealand.

In the future, it will be used to assess the possible role of climate change in Australia’s Black Saturday bushfires in 2009, the record rain events in New Zealand in 2011 and the record rain events in eastern Australia in 2010 and 2011.



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