News Stories

Time to Test That Movie

Does the film The Day After Tomorrow portray events that could really happen? Instead of arguing about it, computers around the world are going to test it. Environmentalist Mat Collins says, "Extreme scenarios make great films, but for practical planning we need to know how likely it is that such events will actually happen."

Alex Kirby writes in bbcnews.com that pclimateprediction.net is inviting computer users to download and run a climate model that tests how the weather worldwide may change if the Gulf Stream flow is affected by melting Arctic ice, as the film shows. An earlier effort to create "the world's most comprehensive probability-based forecast of 21st century climate" attracted 49,000 participants in 130 countries.

Researcher David Frame says, "So far we have been asking people to simulate how the climate could respond to rising carbon dioxide levels. Now we are extending the project to investigate how predictions might change if the thermo-haline circulation in the oceans were to slow down, altering the flow of the Gulf Stream."

Researcher Nick Faull says, "We are not trying to predict the odds on a shut-down of the thermo-haline circulation, but we are asking: 'If it did happen, what are the chances it would offset the warming due to rising greenhouse gases and cause a cooling? What consequences would it have for the atmosphere and oceans?'"

If you want to find out for yourself, download the free software package from climateprediction.net. Your help is needed?Carl Christensen, the project's computer scientist, says, "There is no way we could complete an experiment this size even using the world's biggest supercomputer. The project has really captured the world's imagination: anyone can join in."

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