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Grid computing to tackle climate change

The University of Capetown will use grid computing technologies from IBM to model climate change scenarios in Southern Africa
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

IBM is to work with academics from the University of Cape Town to use grid computing to model climate change in Southern Africa.

The African Climate @ Home project will focus on building models to analyse existing weather patterns in the region, using the World Community Grid to crunch the numbers. The data will be used to model potential scenarios arising from climate change, so that preventative action can be taken to lessen the impact of disasters such as floods.

"We're seeking to build more robust climate change models for southern Africa," said Mark Wakefield, IBM's UK corporate community relations manager. "We want to forecast and predict climate change in the region, but at the moment the basic building blocks aren't in place."

Wakefield said that the World Community Grid was "much faster than a single supercomputer", and that this processing speed was needed due to the complexity and number of variables involved in weather calculations.

Dr Mark Tadross, lead researcher for the climate systems analysis group at the University of Cape Town, said: "Making predictions about the climate requires an enormous amount of computational power because of all of the variables, such as temperature, wind, pressure and humidity. In order to improve the models, we need to come up with better algorithms that will more closely match what is observed in a local area."

Wakefield said that the practice within grid computing of using unused cycles on people's computer systems would not contribute to climate change by increasing energy consumption. "An overall policy on usage of IT should be to switch off unused machines. [However], most people have various patterns of computing — when they're making a phone call or in a meeting their laptop is switched on. We want to make more use of the energy that's already being consumed."

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