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Distributed computing tackles climate change

Idle CPU cycles can now be put to work predicting how our climate will change in the decades ahead

Computer users who want to put their spare computing power to good use can now do their bit to help predict the impact that climate change will have on the Earth.

Oxford University has teamed up with the Met Office and the BBC to develop a desktop application that will use idle processor time to process a possible climate change scenario.

The application, which runs as a screensaver, is based on the software used by the Meteorological Office to predict the world's weather. It will calculate possible changes in the Earth's climate up to 2080.

Each person who chooses to take part in the experiment will receive a different scenario to process. "The more we get, the more accurate will be our predictions. We have got 500,000 climate variations stacked up and ready to go," said lead scientist Myles Allen of Oxford University, according to Reuters.

Allen estimated that a typical home PC will take around three months to process the data. The model begins at 1920, to check that its predictions tie in with actual weather of the 20th Century.

Several other programs already exist to take advantage of idle PCs. The Seti@Home project has been searching for signs of extra-terrestrial life since 1999. In 2001, a distributed computing scheme to search for a cure for cancer was launched. A similar project also exist for AIDS and HIV research.

You can download the climate change software from the BBC.