Play a Role in Global Warming Research

If you own a computer, you can make a difference

04-01-2005 // Roger Di Silvestro

THE LARGEST EXPERIMENT ever conducted to forecast the global climate of the 21st century is headquartered at England's Oxford University, and you can play a crucial role in it.

Called climateprediction.net, the experiment links thousands of computers across the world into a system that can test various climate models thousands of times, refining the data and models that scientists are using to predict global warming. Nearly 100,000 people from some150 nations have participated. "Our experiment shows that increased levels of greenhouse gases could have a much greater impact on climate than previously thought," says David Stainforth of the Oxford Physics Department, quoted by CNN.

Indeed, the study indicates that greenhouse gases could raise global temperatures by as much as 20 degrees F by the end of the century, almost twice the increase predicted by the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This drastic increase is likely to occur even if carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas responsible for global warming, were limited to 560 parts per million in the atmosphere, which is twice the concentration prior to the Industrial Revolution. Without major cuts in greenhouse gas production, that level is likely to be reached by 2050.

Climateprediction.net allows researchers to solve a key modeling problem—lack of computer power. Volunteers visit the project website to download free software that runs in the background when their computers are turned on but not working to capacity. The project has run more than 5 million model years of climate simulations this way.

You can participate by going to www.climateprediction.net and following instructions on the home page. The software you download will not affect other tasks on your computer, according to the website, but does allow you to watch predicted weather patterns evolve. Data from your computer are sent to Oxford via the Internet, and the project website enables you to see summaries of your results.

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