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One Climate, 2,017 Simulations, and 90,000+ Computers
Emily Gertz, 26 Jan 05

climategraphs_large.jpgClimateprediction.net, the project using thousands of personal computers worldwide to predict scenarios for global warming, announced its first round of findings at the international climate conference (COP-10) meeting in Buenos Aires last December. They appear in this week's Nature.

In climateprediction.net's worst-case scenario, carbon-dioxide levels would double compared to the pre-industrial era, and average temperatures could rise from 1.9 ºC to 11.5 ºC. "That is a far greater level of uncertainty than the 2-5 ÂșC rise predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change," (IPCC) according to nature.com, because climateprediction.net was able to look at far more possible scenarios than previous studies. Using the power of distributed computing, the project's researchers were able to run over 2,000 global climate simulations, where past projections have been based on just a few dozen.

While many of the simulations predicted severe temperature increases, most estimated about 3.4 ºC, within the estimate of the IPCC.

Each simulation is a different version of a programme called a general circulation model. This model divides the globe into thousands of sectors, and estimates the future temperature based on certain assumptions such as cloud coverage, the rate of heat movement and rainfall rates.

Previous studies have included only the most probable values for these factors, whereas climateprediction.net's power has allowed the researchers to investigate two or three settings for each parameter.

Even 2,017 simulations later, climateprediction.net's researchers say they've barely begun. They hope even more people will lend their computers to crunching climate data, helping develop more sophisticated scenarios that take into account variables like how heat travels through oceans, or regional climate variations, as well as refining the projected timeline for temperature increases.

In August 2004, 11 months after its initial public launch, climateprediction.net moved from a Windows-only system to the multiple-OS inclusive BOINC platform--the code underlying SETI@home. the grandaddy of alldistributed computing projects . Mac OS X 10.3+ and Linux (32 bit) are both supported.

Belated kudos to climateprediction.net for this upgrade, and also for making this this PDF of the article in Nature available.

Update: Krisjohn points out in the comments that distributed.net is the grandaddy of all distributed computing projects, and as far as I can tell, he's right. --eg

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Comments

I think you'll find Distributed.Net to be the "grandaddy of all distributed computing projects"


Posted by: Krisjohn on 27 Jan 05

ClimatePrediction.net have many more experiments lined up, they deserve our support.


Posted by: Mike Atkinson on 29 Jan 05



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