'Fantastic' response to online climate-change experiment

Thousands more people than expected joined an online experiment to test models which predict climate change, the BBC said Friday.

Thousands more people than expectedjoined an online experiment to test models which predict climate change, the BBC said Friday.

The broadcaster reported that 250,000 people from 171 countries downloaded software from climateprediction.net to do calculationson how slight changes in assumptions affectpredictions of climate change.

The program predicted that average temperatures in Britain could rise 2.5 C by 2050 and4 C by 2080.

The first results were in line with other predictions, but the level of participation was unexpected.

"When it started, we said to ourselves that we would be happy if 10,000 people took part," Nick Faull, climateprediction.net project co-ordinator, told the BBC.

The response was "fantastic," he added.

Thecomputer model was run in conjunction with the BBC.

Climateprediction.net adopted "distributed computing" so it could run the prediction model thousands of times with slight changes in each one.

Past estimates of climate change were made using one or tens of computers.

"By using your computers, we will be able to improve our understanding of, and confidence in, climate change predictions more than would ever be possible using the supercomputers currently available to scientists," the website said.

Sent back to central server

Thedownloaded software ran when the participants left their computer on, but not in use. The results, which took an average of three months of computing time on a PC, were sent back to acentral server.

The model itself was developed by the British Meteorological Office.

"The main difference is that when you run it in in-house, you can get a wider range of information out because you have much greater resources to store and transfer data,"Vicky Pope, head of the climate prediction program at the Meteorological Office, told the BBC.

Enlisting thousands of home computersto doco calculations has been used before. Millions of people have joined theSearch for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence by downloading software used to search for signs of life by analyzingdata from space.

Climateprediction.net is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, the British government and other sources.