Citizen scientists investigating link between UK floods and climate change

04 March 2014

A new project is giving citizen scientists the chance to help answer the question of whether the recent UK flooding can be linked to climate change.

The accumulated rainfall of December 2013 and January and February 2014 was the largest ever recorded at the Radcliffe Observatory in Oxford. Other parts of South England and Wales also experienced extreme rainfall amounts during these three months, leading to extensive flooding.

By taking part in the Weather@Home project on the website, citizen scientists can contribute to research into whether human influence increases the odds of such extreme weather events occurring. is the world's largest climate modelling experiment for the 21st century and is led by Professor Myles Allen, leader of the Climate Research Programme at Oxford's Environmental Change Institute, and co-director of the Oxford Martin Programme on Resource Stewardship.

In the video below, Nathalie Schaller, who is leading the Weather@Home project, explains the science behind it, and why the help of citizen scientists is needed.

Nathalie and the weather@home team are asking for the help of the general public to run two very large 'ensembles' of weather simulations, one representing conditions and 'possible weather' in the winter of 2013-2014, and one representing the weather in a 'world that might have been' if the composition of the atmosphere had not been changed by greenhouse gas emissions. By comparing the numbers of extreme rainfall events in the two ensembles, they will be able to work out whether the risk of a wet winter has increased, decreased or been unaffected by human influence on climate. The ensembles need to be as big as possible to obtain robust estimates of the probability of rare events. The team expect to obtain results within a month from launch, and plan to publish results as they come in, so participants will be able to see the result as it emerges.