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Grid project has eyes for the future

An experiment tapping unused computing power in PCs and laptops endeavors to give scientists a glimpse into how the climate might change over the next 50 years.

A new experiment in grid computing was launched in Britain with the aim of helping to predict climate change over the next half century.

The online climatology research was announced Thursday at the British Association Science Festival at Salford University, a project that will allow PC users from around the world to download software from weather-service provider Met Office and take part in the effort. The experiment endeavors to give scientists a glimpse into how the climate might change over the next 50 years.

The climate prediction model has so far only been run on the Met Office's supercomputers, but the model--which will simulate decades of climate change at a time--has been adapted for PC or laptop use and will run in the background on people's computers when they are not in use. Results will then be returned to the Met Office for analysis.

The experiment is a joint project of U.K. universities Reading, Oxford and the Open University; the Met Office; and an assortment of companies.

Myles Allen, a climatologist from Oxford University, told a conference at the festival yesterday, "Thanks to chaos theory, we can't predict which versions of the model will be any good without running these simulations, and there are far too many for us to run them ourselves.

"Together, participants' results will give us an overall picture of how much human influence has contributed to recent climate change and of the range of possible changes in the future."

The model can be downloaded from and the experiment's backers hope that over 2 million users will get involved in the project.'s Jo Best reported from London.