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Be a scientist in your (spare) computer time

You can help scientists study climate change.

In studies around the world, volunteers are letting scientists use the spare processing power of their personal computers. During idle time (when the volunteers aren't using their computers), the PCs collect data on regional climate information, including temperature, winds, and humidity, which is then used in climate model simulations.

Become a citizen scientist

Surface temperature in the global model—you can watch this progressing as your model runs.Surface temperature in the global model—you can watch this progressing as your model runs.By donating your computer's spare processing power to scientific research, you join the ranks of “citizen scientists” who are helping professional scientists advance their research. You can also help by recruiting friends and family to get involved. Use your favorite social media outlet (such as Facebook and Twitter) to let others knows that you are doing your part—and encourage them to install the climate model application as well. Talk to your children about climate change, and encourage them to participate on their own PCs. Ask them to mention the study to their science teachers—or make it a topic for their next science fair project. Climate change affects everyone—and we need everyone’s help.

OSU and Microsoft Research join the worldwide initiative

“It's exciting that both climate modeling and computer technology have advanced to the point that people at home can contribute to the effort to study climate change.”

— Philip Mote, director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute

In November of 2010, scientists from Oregon State University (OSU) joined this worldwide initiative to study the reliability of various climate simulation models in the western United States. By using the combined computing power of thousands of private PCs, the OSU team can create a digital network with the computational power of a supercomputer.

OSU's participation in the initiative is led by Philip Mote, director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute. Microsoft Research provided primary funding, with additional support provided by the Bureau of Land Management, the California Energy Commission, and the U.S. Geological Survey. OSU’s work joins similar work already underway in South Africa and the United Kingdom.

Since the project's inception in 2003, hundreds of thousands of volunteers have donated their spare computer processing power, which allows scientists to run tens of thousands of year-long climate simulation models. In comparison, a dedicated supercomputer could simulate just a few hundred years’ worth of data in the same timeframe.

Get involved

To help with the climate study, download and install the climate model application on your computer. After you install the application, it collects climate data  whenever you are not using your computer.