Study investigates regional climate change

Volunteers are being asked to take part in a distributed computing project that will help researchers understand how climate change will affect weather in Europe, the western US and southern Africa.

The weatherathome.net project builds on the success of an earlier project called climateprediction.net, which also used volunteers’ spare computer power to run global climate models to help scientists learn more about the climates we are most likely to experience in the 21st century.

Unlike the earlier project, however, the new weatherathome.net project aims to help researchers discover more about changes to regional and local weather, rather than produce somewhat less detailed global models.

Nevertheless, the regional models still need to be supplied with climate information such as temperature, winds and humidity, around their edges, so that they can still feel the influence of the weather in other parts of the world.

In weatherathome.net, this will be achieved by embedding the regional models within a ’driving’ global model. So users taking part in the weatherathome experiment will essentially be running ’two models in one’ on their computers.

Initially, three target models – the western US, southern Africa and Europe – were chosen for the study because the majority of climateprediction.net participants live in Europe and the US, and because southern Africa is a region thought to be particularly vulnerable to climate change.

Results from the different regions will be sent directly to scientists specialising in the climates of those regions for analysis: the European region will be analysed by Oxford University and the Met Office, the western US by Oregon State University and southern Africa by the University of Cape Town.

This new experiment was developed by Oxford University and the UK Met Office, and is supported by Microsoft Research.