New Weather@Home Project – Were Recent UK Floods Due to Climate Change?

You can help us answer the question: How much, if at all, was climate change to blame for the recent flooding in the UK?

Help us answer this question in the latest weather@home experiment, launched today, with live results posted on the website daily over the next month. Nathalie Schaller explains the science behind this new project:

The winter of 2013/2014 was the wettest ever recorded leading to severe flooding in many parts of the country. Many have been asking whether this level of extreme rainfall and the resulting floods are linked to climate change. This is not an easy question to answer, and we can never say that any particular flood was caused by climate change. However, we can ask and answer the question of how the odds of getting an extremely wet winter have changed due to man-made climate change: have past greenhouse gas emissions and other forms of pollution “loaded the weather dice” towards (or perhaps even away from) an event of this nature?

In order to see if the dice have been loaded, we need to roll the dice many, many times, and that is what this experiment will do: we are going to run climate models for the recent winter thousands of times, creating an “ensemble” of models, which should show us the effect of any subtle loading. The ensembles need to be as big as possible to obtain robust estimates of the probability of rare events.

So, to do this, we are asking for the help of the general public. We need to run two very large “ensembles” of weather simulations, one representing conditions and “possible weather” in the winter 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 extreme rainfall events in the two ensembles, we can work out if the risk of a wet winter has increased, decreased or been unaffected by human influence on climate. We expect to obtain results within a month from launch, and plan to publish results as they come in, so you will be able to see the result as it emerges.

We do not know what the results will be. It is absolutely possible that the experiments will tell us that climate change had nothing to do with the extremely wet winter we have just had.

Please help us by donating your spare computing power to the project – sign up now!

Read more about the Weather@Home 2014 experiment:

Read press coverage of this experiment in the Guardian:

« Back to News