Launch of new weather@home experiment on the causes of recent heatwaves and drought in Australia and New Zealand

We’ve just launched another new regional modelling experiment looking at the link between climate change and the recent heatwaves and drought in Australia and New Zealand.

2013 saw record high temperatures across Australia, with repeated heat waves in many parts of the country. New Zealand experienced a severe drought in the North Island. Many people are asking “Did human-caused climate change play a role in these extreme events?” increasing the chances of heat waves and making the drought more severe.

Australia experiences heat waves every summer somewhere in the country, so maybe the extreme events in 2013 were just due to natural variability.

We have put together a collaboration of scientists at the University of Oxford in England, the UK Met Office, the University of Melbourne and NIWA in New Zealand to try to answer these questions.

Read more about the experiment on the weather@home ANZ 2013 experiment page on our website.

Mitchell Black explains the science behind this new project, and why we need your help to answer these important questions about the link between extreme weather and climate change:

NIWA, New Zealand, scientist Suzanne Rosier explains more about the Weather@home ANZ experiment:

To answer these questions, we are asking for help from the general public. We need to run two very large “ensembles” of weather simulations, one representing conditions and “possible weather” in 2013, the year we have just had, and one representing the weather in a “world that might have been” if we had not changed the composition of the atmosphere through greenhouse gas emissions.

By comparing the numbers of heat waves and drought events in the two ensembles, we can work out if the risk of a heat waves or the risk of drought has increased, decreased or been unaffected by human influence on climate.

You can help by signing up to the weather@home ANZ 2013 project, making your home computer available to run these weather simulations over Australia and New Zealand.

The simulations are run in the background so you can still use your computer normally. You can even look at the results on your monitor while the simulations are running. And when they finish, the output data is automatically send back to a server at the University of Tasmania and made available for scientists to analyse.

The great advantage of this project is that many thousands of simulations can be completed for each case, the world we experienced in 2013 and the world that might have been, without human-caused changes in climate. This allows a much better assessment of the changes in the risk of extreme events. This project is only possible by making use of the computer power of people’s home computers.

While the initial focus is on extreme events in 2013, simulations will also be made for other years, allowing scientists to better assess the possible role of climate change in the Black Saturday bushfires in Australia in 2009, the record rain events in New Zealand in 2012 and the record rain events in eastern Australia in 2010 and 2011.

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