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Software Science

Simulate "The Day After Tomorrow" On Your PC 285

Posted by timothy
from the well-not-on-mine dept.
kpearson writes "climateprediction.net, a distributed computing project to predict Earth's climate 50 years from now, has a new add-on project to study THC slowdown (how climate might change as CO2 changes in the event of a decrease in the strength of the thermohaline circulation). This kind of rapid, extreme climate change is shown in the movie The Day After Tomorrow, in which New York City is treated to a 10,000-year-long ski season. Anyone can download the project's client software and participate in the simulation. climateprediction.net was previously mentioned in the September 13, 2003 article Distributed Computing and Climate Change." Clients are available for various varieties of Microsoft Windows, but none are listed for other OSes.
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Simulate "The Day After Tomorrow" On Your PC

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  • by Ckwop (707653) * <Simon.Johnson@gmail.com> on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @05:30AM (#9181381) Homepage
    .. if back at the time of the dinosaurs all this carbon was in the air.. then how can be releasing it be the end of "life as we know it".. The Dinosaurs did quite well :)

    Personally, It's my opinion that the earth is a pretty robust system and our climate models will be rather wrong.

    Simon.
  • by sanermind (512885) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @05:32AM (#9181391)
    Foolish. Current advanced computer modelling isn't even capable of predicting the weather next week with any great accuracy.
  • by Peden (753161) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @05:33AM (#9181394) Homepage
    That movie is expected to draw furhter focus on the environment and specifically global warming. This is both good and bad, as too much focus on the environment can draw focus from other points of interesets. Danish Scientist "Bjorn Lomborg" (one of Time Magazines top 100 important persons) has been warning politicians to not forget other points of importance, such as healthcare and clean water. I hope this does not distort the vision of politicians around the globe, lets not forget how er priotitize.
  • One question... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by beacher (82033) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @05:33AM (#9181397) Homepage
    Does it come with media fearmongering "THE WORLD ENDS TOMORROW. DETAILS AT 8" addons? Seriously. Every single damn weather event is a showstopper. If my team blew everything out of proportion like the media did, I'd sack em. Also speaking of weather... They can't even get the 3 days forecast even close much less years out.

    Interested in weather, love/hate to watch tornados and hurricanes.. trouble is the news makes it out like "The Perfect Storm" is about to happen ..
    -B
  • GIGO? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pesc (147035) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @05:37AM (#9181408)
    So if the computer is big enough, the garbage-in, garbage-out problem disappears?

    We can't predict the weather for the next week, but doing it for the next 50 years might work if we only can get a computer big enough?
  • by zopu (558866) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @05:40AM (#9181422)
    True, but isn't that a different problem?

    I admit I'm a bit clueless here, but AFAIK climate modelling deals with overall changes at a high level e.g. "It's going to be colder in the north atlantic by about 2 degrees on average in a few decades" and the like.
    As opposed to weather prediction which says "It will rain in this spot on this day"

    Just because we can't predict the 'noise' in the short term doesn't mean we can't determine overall changes long term.

  • On global warming. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ForestGrump (644805) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @05:41AM (#9181427) Homepage Journal
    "There is nothing wrong with the planet. The planet is fine . . . been
    here 4 1/2 billion years. We've been here, what, a 100,000 years, maybe
    200,000. And we've only been engaged in heavy industry a little over 200
    years. 200 years versus 4 1/2 billion. And we have the conceit to think
    that somehow we're a threat? The planet isn't going away. We are."
    -George Carlin
  • by richie2000 (159732) <rickard.olsson@gmail.com> on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @05:44AM (#9181438) Homepage Journal
    "life as we know it".. The Dinosaurs did quite well :)

    I for one welcome our new/old dinosaur overlords!

    Joking aside, the argument that the earth has been experiencing major differences in temperatures in the past and that this is normal and all is very fascinating except for one small fact: We're humans. We don't like having volcanoes in our back yards, ferns all over our lawns, hurricanes ripping our houses to shreds and brontosaurs trampling our offspring. We're kinda picky that way.

  • by nmoog (701216) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @05:47AM (#9181455) Homepage Journal
    I agree that the earth has a pretty robust system. Once it can kill off all those pesky humans it will take no time to bring itself back to good health, and enjoy the good life for another few million years.
  • by Hektor_Troy (262592) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @05:49AM (#9181466)
    Danish Scientist "Bjorn Lomborg"
    You placed the "" the wrong place. It should be
    Danish "Scientist" Bjørn Lomborg
    He's in statistics, and judging by some of the critisism he's gotten from other people in that area, not a very good one either.
  • by kd4evr (712384) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @05:52AM (#9181486)
    Hmm...

    Earth may have a self-regulating system we do not yet (fully) understand. When you say its a robust system, you are right. Our climate models may well be worth squat, right again.

    Dinosaurs did quite well for quite a long time, until they could...

    However, the issue is not whether human interventions can fully derail earth's climate or only tackle the parameters a bit.
    The point is, that the changes in the weather we as a civilisation started will most certainly affect our way of life as we know it. Human is considered the most adaptable species, present in all kinds of environments. I cannot argue whether we are going to drive ourselves into extinction or not by what we did to the climate, but surely life (and survival) in either dry deserts, frozen glaciers or stormy swamps has little to do with the current trends in economy. There is a vast difference between a habitable and comfortable climate, you see...

    Dont start the IPO on that dino-breeding company just yet ;-)
  • Not gonna work (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bigHairyDog (686475) * on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @05:58AM (#9181505)

    I did a climate modeling project for my dissertation at university. These guys have a good idea - throw massive computing power at it - but it's not that simple. Compared to SETI or protein folding, climate modeling is not as highly parallelisable. Plus what's holding back the state of the art right now is the quality of the algorithms we're using - they loose accuracy pretty fast as the result of feedback between multiple iterations of a process that introduces quantisation noise each time.

    IMHO this project will produce the same quantisation noise-ruined results we have now, just more finely ovesampled

    Still, they might get some useful insights into how to tackle the problems of parallel dynamic system simulation

  • by Decaff (42676) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @06:20AM (#9181579)
    The earth and life are robust, but we aren't. Most of human civilisation has occurred within a 10,000 year period since the last glaciation in which ice sheets covered much of the Northern hemisphere. The climate has been particularly and unusually stable for the past millenium. This is not going to last. If (as is very likely) the ice returns, or if global warming stirs up the climate, millions could die and many more will be forced to migrate. In terms of life as a whole on our planet, what we do matters little in the long term, but we could, and probably will, make things very unpleasant for ourselves.
  • by Vellmont (569020) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @06:21AM (#9181582) Homepage
    You refer to the lie that some of the eco-freaks like to believe in. That is that we're "saving the planet". As George Carlin put it, "That planet is fine, the people are fucked".

    You're right that the earths eco-system is very robust. It's survived meteor collisions, massive climate changes, etc. Human society isn't particularly robust though. While you may be fine with the eco-system taking a few thousand years to adjust to a new climate, most people aren't. I think mass famine because of crop failure and flooding of the coasts is a Bad Thing (for us humans that is). That's the real reason people should be concerned about climate change, and not this altruistic bull that a small minority wants to shove down our throats.
  • by Epistax (544591) <`epistax' `at' `gmail.com'> on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @06:28AM (#9181612) Journal
    What I'd like to know is which animal on this planet will (would have) evolve into the next "Big Thing"? If it weren't for our timely sentience, many species we've killed over the years would still be around (mammoth, anyone?). My point is: is this planet at an evolutionary dead end until a disaster strikes, or is there a contender to be top eater? Could humanity be considered the natural disaster that they need?
  • by Walkiry (698192) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @06:33AM (#9181626) Homepage
    when you don't know all the variables involved?
  • by ch-chuck (9622) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @06:35AM (#9181629) Homepage
    As they say, everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it (I think that saying must be over 100 years old, before worries over CO2 became fashionable). I have magazines from 1927 where nutcases write in, sure that the unusually wet weather we're having is due to all these newfangled radio transmitting stations going up - you can't pump all those kilowatts into the aether w/o some damage to the earth!

    Anyway, as someone who has had a hurricane in his back yard and lived to talk about it, what I'm afraid of is what primitive superstitious corrective actions you are going to take to 'fix' the human/earth balance and restore reality to the garden of eden state. If history is any guide it will probably involve pagen sacrifices of virgins into the co2 spewing volcano, much wailing and weeping begging to sun not to go further south than the winter equinox and other such idiotic nonsense - except it will be federally and UN mandated upon otherwise rational beings who know better, all to appease an angry militant band of vegatable chomping gaia worshippers.

    The ultimate goal of all this kookiness is impeding US industry and prosperity, pure and simple - a propagande attack from the former Soviet Union couldn't have been better that todays enviros and is behind the same moving of industrial production to better climes offshore that the same folks decry. For some reason a plant in the US is singled out as the sole source of earth's destruction, while the exact same plant in Mexico, China or India is just A-OK with even less pollution controls. For example, production and use of Freon in Mexico goes on unchecked, but now that the US consumer has been hamstrung and pays more for less, suddenly the ozone hole is getting better all the time! Bullocks. Utter bullocks.

  • by richie2000 (159732) <rickard.olsson@gmail.com> on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @07:10AM (#9181815) Homepage Journal
    Roaches. They're hardy, breed easily and eats almost anything. When we're gone, they'll take over. Single-cells, fish, dinos, mammals, insects. I dunno what comes after the insects, though. Bacteria, maybe. Or MS Blaster. ;-)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @07:15AM (#9181848)
    And of course Bjørn Lomborg is wrong and totally unbelieveable according to the overwhelming majority of scientists from a multiplicity of disciplines, ass you should know if you pay any kind of attention to valid scientific debate (as opposed to articles in the Torygraph).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @07:31AM (#9181984)
    Insects like the cockroach won't "take over" (any more than they already have; most species of land animal are beetles) because you can't get much bigger than a beetle without your exoskeleton collapsing under its own weight. Insects like the cockroach lived alongside the dinosaurs and didn't "take over" their ecological niches when they died the way the mammals did for this reason. "Bacteria" is an even sillier answer because bacteria have been around for even longer than insects.
  • Re:Foolishness (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Eivind (15695) <eivindorama@gmail.com> on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @07:42AM (#9182067) Homepage
    There's a difference between weather and climate.

    A bit simplified, climate is average weather.

    It's a bit like while it is impossible to predict which days will get rain in Bergen, Norway this november, it's pretty easy to predict the average temperature, the annual rainfall and how many days it'll rain.

  • by BRSQUIRRL (69271) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @08:25AM (#9182558)
    I don't think anyone should forget that this "environmentally focused" movie is based in part on the book The Coming Global Superstorm [amazon.com], written by Whitley Strieber [amazon.com] and Art Bell [coasttocoastam.com], not exactly the paragons of scientific objectivity.
  • by SEWilco (27983) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @08:42AM (#9182749) Journal
    However, if we can determine overall changes long term...then this new research would not be needed.

    Take a look at one small section of the IPCC Third Assessment Report (TAR) [grida.no]. Note the uncertainties and many "improvements" since the previous report, the SAR upon which the Kyoto protocol is based. Browse the report further for more uncertainties and recent discoveries.

    We simply don't know enough about climate yet. For example, water causes most of the planet's greenhouse effect. Increased temperatures will obviously put more water in the atmosphere. But how much will stay as water vapor, and how much will condense into clouds? And will greater cloud cover be as a thin horizontal layer (which might cool the planet if it reflects more sunlight, or might warm the planet as a blanket which traps heat), or will the increased water appear as vertical rain-producing clouds?

  • by SEWilco (27983) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @09:11AM (#9183066) Journal
    The facts are that the amount of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere are way higher now than they were a hundred years ago.
    Which greenhouse gases increased, and by how much? Has the major greenhouse gas (it's not CO2) increased? Does CO2 affect temperature, or does temperature affect CO2 levels? (For example, warmth encourages fermentation in swamps rather than burial of carbon)

    The atmosphere is also warming at a rate unheard of since we started measuring these things
    That would be the warming during the past 100 years, the period when we've had thermometers. Look at that graph and how much warming happened before 1945, when we had little fossil fuels in use. After 1945...cooling for 30 years while we burned more fuels. How much has the rate of increase changed during warming periods?

    and at a rate not found in any ice samples from the last several hundred thousand years.
    Look again. Start around 15,000 years ago and see if there was a rapid change back then.

    Large chunks of very old ice is melting in Antarctica
    Check when that began melting, and compare the ages of ice. Melting is not new.

    and there are island nations that will soon cease to exist due to rising ocean waters.
    Those reports have been studied in several ways, look at them again. Also check their tectonic base, such as whether they're in the large area west of Australia which is sinking.

    Can we afford to ignore the possibility of a causal link? I believe we can't.
    Spend your money how you wish. Can you afford to ignore the possibility of a warmer Sun, secret misuse of alien technology, or a meteor destroying your ISP? Better prepare...better safe than sorry.

  • by SEWilco (27983) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @09:28AM (#9183278) Journal
    If you don't want us to die out, get us off this planet. All our eggs are in this one basket, at the bottom of a gravity well.
  • by gfxguy (98788) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @09:48AM (#9183496)
    Because "Global Warming to Destroy Life as We Know it!" sells more than "Everything's Fine and Dandy."
  • by TeknoHog (164938) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:38AM (#9184077) Homepage Journal
    when you don't know all the variables involved?

    The same applies to all scientific projects, yet we somehow manage with proper use of approximations.

  • Re:Not gonna work (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SengirV (203400) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @12:11PM (#9185337)
    Plus what's holding back the state of the art right now is the quality of the algorithms we're using

    I'm sure there is no pressure to tweek these to get the desired "Imminent global calamity!!! make the US stop all commerce" outcome that is desired in this Anti-US world we live in today. I'm sure your dissertation's algorithms were fine, but once you start playing with the big boy politics where Meryl Strep has more pull in congress than actual scientists, then I have little faith in how accurate and reliable these algorithms are.

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