Posted by: buggy | 12 December, 2005

The Day After Tomorrow?

Bugg's Take

Ok.So I admit it.

I'm a closet tree-hugger.

You know…. save Mother Earth, save the Whales, save the beaches and all that.

Ever since I played Sim Earth way back when, I've held a silent interest in the welfare of our planet. Yes, I try to do my little bit… I recycle whenever and wherever I can.

Just ask my housemates in Perth. No doubt Sulphurous will remember our zany escapades with the recycling bin, sneaking off in the middle of the night to dump our stuff for recycling into the recycling bin of the apartment block beside our house. We had a couple of scary encounters with the guardian of the refuse area, whom we affectionately dubbed "The Colonel". We even had our escape plan down pat, in case The Colonel actually caught us in the act. Bug us hard enough and we may reveal our brilliant scheme of misdirection and deception. *singger*

The Colonel was….well…. The Colonel. So named because he looked just like someone out of World War ONE. Not WW2 mind you….. ONE. Complete with stiff upper lip and grey handlebar moustache, he was a terrifying sight to behold. With his walking stick, he would soldier (obligatory bad pun for the day) on faithfully, tending his grounds and keeping louts like Sulph and me off the compound. And we 2 would try to ninja our way into his recycling area to dump our plastic bottles and Coke cans into it. It was the proverbial cat and mouse game. And let me tell you…. he almost caught us a few times. Now that I think about it, 2… count em…2 undergrad brains didn't think enough to muffle the sounds of our rattling Coke cans while we conducted our surgical strike deep into enemy territory. The racket roused him from his pipe and evening paper and he came down on us like a Sherman tank into a German trench. I still vividly remember us dumping our payload into the recycling bin and causing such a din that our poor "fallguy" in Unit 8 *wink wink* *nudge nudge* would probably have woken from her slumber too. Hey Sulph….. "FIRE IN THE HOLE!!!!"


On to what I really wanted to post about.

While sick as a dog with tonsilitis on Friday, I watched a captivating and thought provoking National Geographic feature on the plight of the people of the island nation of Tuvalu. The Tuvaluans live on islands only 2 meters (on average) above sea level. With global warming and rising sea levels, climate scientists expect Tuvalu to be totally submerged by the year 2100.

Yeah, we'll all be dead and dusted by then right?

Wrong. We'll be dead, but the next generation will be left with the bleak prospect of having their island home disappear under the waves like some modern day Atlantis. Tuvalu has already seen worrying signs of the effects of climate change. Tropical cyclone activity has increased TEN FOLD since 100 years ago. Their airport is already showing signs of water seepage. The runway is showing puddles and sandy beaches are becoming marshy quicksand.

So what the hell does this have to do with me right? I suppose it struck a chord with me as I too live on an island nation. And while Singapore is, for now, safely above sea level… I really feel for the plight of the Tuvaluans. Many of them are faced with the terrifying prospect of having to leave their homeland, to move to a safer country. Countries like New Zealand and Australia are accepting Tuvaluans already.

What can I do about it?

Well…. nothing that will make any immediate difference. But what I WILL do, is to shift my distributed computing focus to Climate Prediction. Yes… my solution to global warming is to throw terraflops at it. Geeky? Definitely. Will it make a difference? I can only hope. It's my small way of helping my kids to live in a safe, and better world after I'm gone.

On a side note, I have begun dedicating some of my crunch power on Climate Prediction's ultra tough Sulphur Cycle project. This experiment attempts to model the effect of sulphur on global surface temperatures. I'll throw in a couple of images here to break the monotony of text. (plus i love dem purdy peektures…)

Figure 1 shows one model's surface temperature response to increasing sulphur emissions from pre-industrial levels (natural) to present day levels (natural plus anthropogenic). The cooling effect of sulphate aerosol can be seen throughout the whole northern hemisphere and corresponds to the high sulphate burden of the northern hemisphere shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2 shows the 1985 distribution of sulphate in the atmosphere over the North Atlantic, North America and Europe. The regions of high anthropogenic source emissions of sulphur dioxide leads to high concentrations of sulphate aerosol over the northern hemisphere continents. Unlike greenhouse gases, the distribution and concentration of sulphates varies a lot with location, as can be seen by comparing the sulphate concentration over the North Pole with that over North America.

Those of you who are not ask geekily inclined as me, and have still read on gamely to this point, will get a layman's explanation of what's going on. See? Who says I don't give out cookies…

Basically, what I'm doing here is to run a program on my computers that use their idle processing power (like when I'm not using the PC) to process ("crunch") a mathematical model of the climate change. These models work on "timesteps" which model days and minutes of weather activity, from a mathematical perspective. Believe me, it's a mammoth task that requires a horrendous amount of computing power. I'll keep it simple and leave it as that.

Here's a nice, succinct description from the BOINC-Wiki.

"Networked computing, also called Distributed computing, grid, or mesh computing is a system whereby many small machines are connected to perform work. Instead of one large computer working on the entire problem using all the data at the same time we "eat-the-elephant" one bite at a time. The problem space and data set is divvied up into smaller "chunks" and those are processed one small bit at a time."

One day I'll post in more detail about my involvement in the BOINC projects.

In the meantime, if any kind soul'd greenie out there is interested to sign up to help Climate Prediction, drop me an email.

Or join the team!



  1. Dude.. you’ve gone all kyoto-ish! Anyway, it seems Thom Yorke has about the same sentiments as you.. expressed with liberal amounts of ‘effin at that.

  2. Yeah bro, I’ve gone “granola” as they say… hahahah….

    But seriously though, call me overly sentimental or what not, but the plight of the Tuvaluans does move me.

    And apparently Thom is concerned enough to throw his weight behind it too.

    The Climate Prediction DC project is one of the more worthy projects to support as they are very active with their research and openly publish their findings.

    They gain media exposure through interactions with political figures, most recently the French Minister for Research and Higher Learning.

    Climate change is a problem that involves us all.

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