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December 09, 2005
Researchers from the Center for Computation & Technology at LSU showcased visualization techniques for hurricane Katrina research at SC05, an internationally recognized supercomputing conference, recently held in Seattle last month. Their demonstrations compared simulations with actual observations, storm surge measurements from sensors, and data from aerial mapping and satellite images.
LSU's experts in hurricane research and computational science are working in a collaboration to save lives. The Center for Computation & Technology, or CCT, has been working with researchers at the Center for the Study of Public Health Impacts of Hurricanes, or CSPHIH, to better prepare for storms through visualization and modeling.
Experience with a storm as devastating as hurricane Katrina motivates this group of scientists to make a difference. The collaboration brings together groups in high performance computing, sensor networks and visualization as well as application communities in GIS, remote sensing, and coastal and atmospheric modeling. The team believes that their forecasts of such catastrophic events, coupled with adaptable emergency response, could reduce casualties and save billions.
"I still can't forget what I saw," said Hassan Mashriqui, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering. "People died there, and we're working like crazy to figure it out," said Mashriqui.
Director of the Center for the Study of Public Health Impacts of Hurricanes Ivor Van Heerden is working on a forensic study to determine why the levees breached. "We're getting aerial video of the breaches and looking for digital clocks left behind to find out how the flooding spread," said Van Heerden.
Paul Kemp, director of the natural systems modeling group at the school of the coast and environment also has been studying the levees. "We are trying to educate people so they evacuate. In a city were the levees were paper mache we're trying to help to get them out on time," said Kemp.
Mashriqui explained the critical nature of the research at a recent collaboration meeting. "The fire dept was using our forecast to rescue people the night before the wall broke. They took our map, and it showed which part would be flooded."
This type of application is just the kind of project that computing experts at the CCT are interested in getting involved in. CCT Director Edward Seidel believes that the computational science and Grid expertise at his center can contribute. "The technologies like those created in our GridLab project can improve the way that we manage and automate the many simulations needed. The LONI network can move the data to where it's needed for visualization."
Seidel also believes that funding agencies and vendors will be likely to support the hurricane research of the collaborative team. "We can build a community and get vendors engaged," said Seidel. "If we pull together weather, coastal and computational communities, agencies like the NSF will be much more ready to receive our proposals," said Seidel.
Shalini Venkataraman, a research scientist at the CCT believes that the collaboration will help focus the various efforts across campus. "It will bring together a national alliance of expert modelers, computational scientists, software developers, vendors and agencies to go beyond a demonstration to address such problems in the future," said Venkataraman.
"Researchers at CCT have been pioneering efforts integrating data access and management, high-speed networking, computational modeling, simulation and scientific visualization," said Venkataraman. "We hope to bring all this closer to our local community of coastal modelers and hurricane researchers to aid in disaster forecasting, awareness and management.
Since hurricane research is a complex field, it requires many groups to concentrate on certain aspects to achieve advancements. Scientific visualization of simulation and observation data allows to reintegrate specialized domains. This displays connections and relationships which would otherwise remain hidden," said Werner Benger, research scientist at the CCT.
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