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Home PCs predict grim future for our climate

250,000 PCs unite to produce long-term model

UK temperatures will rise by as much as 6 degrees centigrade over the next 75 years, according to predictions by a distributed computing project run in conjunction with the BBC.

ClimatePrediction.net uses the computing power of thousands of home PCs to run a computer model of future climate change, and will be presenting its findings in greater detail on a BBC programme this weekend.

The website provided software that would enable home PCs to each run a single simulation of future climate changes.

"Climateprediction.net is the largest experiment to try and produce a forecast of the climate in the 21st century," the project explains on its website. "To do this, we need people around the world to give us time on their computers – time when they have their computers switched on, but are not using them to their full capacity.

"By running the model thousands of times we hope to find out how the model responds to slight tweaks to these approximations – slight enough to not make the approximations any less realistic. This will allow us to improve our understanding of how sensitive our models are to small changes and also to things such as changes in carbon dioxide and the sulphur cycle. This will allow us to explore how climate may change in the next century under a wide range of different scenarios."

The software was downloaded approximately 250,000 times by users in 171 countries. Project co-ordinator Nick Faull told the BBC News website: "When it started, we said to ourselves that we would be happy if 10,000 people took part. So to see more than 10 times as many signing up was fantastic."

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ClimatePrediction uses idle PCs' power to model meteorological changes

The most famous use of the distributed computing principle was Seti, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. Millions of computer users downloaded software to analyse astronomical data in the hopes of proving the existence of alien life.

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