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Crowdsourcing website predicts climate change

Sunday 23 Mar 2014 5:20 p.m.

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A group of scientists are keen to study the relationship between climate change and extreme weather events, and they want your help.

You do not have to know anything about the subject, just have a computer.

Finding the link between manmade climate change and extreme weather events like the recent Christchurch floods is the goal of many scientists worldwide. But soon New Zealanders with no scientific background will be able to contribute too. 

"We can only say something about the change in risk of such events once we've got many, many thousands of simulations, which is why we need the help of the general public," says NIWA climate scientist Suzanne Rosier.

Ms Rosier is helping launch the Weather at Home project in New Zealand and Australia on Wednesday. People will be able to sign up online to have spare processing power on their computer used to run climate models.

"Weather at Home specifically wants to look at how the risk of extreme events might have changed with anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions," says Ms Rosier.

She says her team will start by modelling last year's weather as it was during the North Island drought, and as it may have been in a world without greenhouse gas emissions.

She hopes it will show if those emissions make extreme weather more likely.

"I think it's really important that we do keep an open mind about it," says Ms Rosier. "So it's possible that such events will become more severe or more common. It's also possible that they might not."

She says the more people contribute, the better the models get, and is urging anyone who has a computer, an internet connection and an interest in weather to sign up.

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