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November 25, 2010
Want to help propel climate science, but don't have a spare supercomputer to offer? Now you can contribute your spare PC cycles to run climate models that could help researchers predict our future weather patterns.
The recently launched WeatherAtHome.net project allows people from around the world to help run climate simulation while their personal computers are otherwise idle. Like other volunteer computing projects, like Folding@Home and DrugDiscovery@Home, WeatherAtHome.net relies on the kindness of strangers to contribute processor cycles to drive a large-scale computer simulation -- in this case a climate model.
WeatherAtHome.net is actually a subset of climateprediction.net that was launched in 2003. The latter focuses on climate change scenarios on a global scale. WeatherAtHome.net, on the other hand, targets regional climates to help scientists develop local models of weather and climate. The three initial regions the project is working on are the Western US, Southern Africa and Europe, three areas with large human populations that look to be particularly vulnerable to climate change.
An article this week in Climate Central describes the utility of the approach:
“Statisticians are usually happy with 30 runs through a model,” says Philip Mote, a climate scientist from Oregon State University now collaborating with the international team, headed by researchers at Oxford University that launched Climateprediction.net a few years back. Mote’s part of the project is aimed at better modeling future climate in the western United States. “We’ve got almost 45,000, so we’re already in great shape.”
Mote goes on to say that because of the complexity of the landscapes and coastal environments, these three regions have been particularly difficult to model. As a result, the cloud and snow patterns tend to be too complex to be easily simulated in a global model.
However, the distributed nature of the volunteer computing grid means the simulations are less sophisticated than those run a tightly coupled supercomputer. Thus you don't get as complete a picture of the future climate. But the sheer number of simulations that can be attempted allows the WeatherAtHome researchers to compensate with more, if less accurate, data points.
If you're interested in downloading the software and donating some of your idle PC time for this umm... killer application, check out the WeatherAtHome site at http://climateprediction.net/weatherathome.
Full story at Climate Central
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