Australian researchers have developed a simple online climate model that allows anyone to deconstruct our atmosphere and environment with the click of a button and see how our world would change.
The online climate model has the capacity to compute 100,000 years of simulations on a laptop computer in a single day and comes in a basic or complex form to suit a wide variety of ages and learning levels.
The web interface places two model experiments side by side, so anyone with a web connection can experiment with a model of Earth's climate and compare how the world would change if you took away or added certain key characteristics.
"The model and interface are unique. There is no other physical climate model that can do these conceptual deconstructions through an interactive web-interface," said team leader Dietmar Dommenget, a Chief investigator with ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science from Monash University.
"The model has already been used by about 2000 students in universities and high schools worldwide and is now ready for use by the public and teachers everywhere."
The simple physical climate model that is the basis for the interactive website was first developed in 2008 and was peer reviewed and published in Climate Dynamics in 2011.
The idea to take the climate model online for the general public was presented at a conference of the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society in 2012. After the presentation other researchers and programmers helped optimize the code, so that it ran 20 times faster.
"I wanted to develop a realistic climate mode for students and myself that was fast, simple and easy to understand," Dr Dommenget said.
"The model can compute 100,000 years of simulations per day on a laptop. By contrast a more complex Coupled General Circulation Model would compute around 20 years on a supercomputer over the same period."
The model also enables anyone to look into the future and see how the world will change according to the different climate change scenarios defined by the International Panel on Climate Change.
It is also possible to see how the world will respond to a doubling of carbon dioxide, an event that is expect to occur within the next 30 years if current emissions trajectories continue.
The website includes tutorials about climate models and climate change, along with some puzzles.
"State of the climate models are useful for researchers but they do not easily explain how things work in the climate system for students and the general public," Dr Dommenget said.
"This simple climate model aims to make the processes clearer and help everyone discover how simple alterations in the climate system can have significant impacts."