Investigating extreme weather events in Australia

Investigating extreme weather events in Australia

The project, based at the e-Research Centre, has been taking part in a new collaboration with the Tasmanian Partnership for Advanced Computing (TPAC), 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, while New Zealand experienced a severe drought in the North Island. Australia experiences heat waves every summer somewhere in the country, so it is possible the extreme events in 2013 were just due to natural variability. However, many people are asking the question "Did human-caused climate change play a role in these extreme events, increasing the chances of heat waves and making the drought more severe?" which this work aims to answer.

The e-Research Centre provided computing expertise to allow TPAC to receive upwards of 10 TB (and growing) of climate model data from the distributed computers of over 30,000 citizen science volunteers. To contribute to the project volunteers run the weather@home software on their computers. This software runs simulations in the background so you can still use your computer normally, making use of processing power when your computer would otherwise be sitting idle, and sending data back to the University of Tasmania, where scientists are able to analyse the results.

By using small amounts of processing power across a very large number of computers, scientists are able to perform a far greater number of calculations than would otherwise be feasible, at last making it practical to simulate a wide range of possible scenarios. The aim of the simulations is to identify possible causes for 2013's severe weather events and test whether there is an anthropological signal that influences extreme weather events in Australia.

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:

You can read more about the experiment here on the website:

To find out more and to sign up as a volunteer for the weather@home project, go to