Brussels, 14 August 2002
A massive project called Climateprediction.com aims to recruit the downtime of personal computers, when they are on but not being used, to run a weather model with a large number of different parameters. The project hopes to achieve this through digital volunteers signing up their computers.
The aim is to find out which of a selection of 10 parameters matter to forecasting and hopes to establish why current forecasts are unreliable.
These factors include the height of grass on the ground and the speed at which ice falls in the air. For each of the 10 parameters there will be 12 sets of starting conditions, one for each month. The numbers start to get very large.
'To do that requires a huge amount of computing power,' said Dr Leonard Smith from Pembroke College in Oxford; 'more computer power than any climate centre has in the world.'
The first half of the computing project runs the model from 1950 to the year 2000 and the results will then be compared with what actually happened over that time. This will allow researchers to determine which parameters in the model affect the weather in real life and those found to be ineffective will be eliminated from the second part of the experiment. The surviving parameters will be used to forecast from 2000 to 2050.
By signing up their PCs to work on the project in its downtime, volunteers can run one of these predictions and contribute to the project. They will receive a CD with a programme and a set of instructions. Each person will be given a unique starting point between 1950 and 2000 and an accompanying set of parameters. Compatible with Windows, Macintosh and Linux, the computer runs the programme and prompts the volunteers to return the results by e-mail. In return, volunteers are able to watch a simulated planet on screen and see how other models are progressing.
To date, 17,000 computers have signed up to the project. Results are expected within a year.
For further information, please consult the following web address: