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August 16, 2010
Jaguar raises the bar for modeling the next big shakeup
Aug. 16 -- California takes earthquakes very seriously. The state straddles two major tectonic plates and is subject to relatively frequent, often major, potentially devastating quakes.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the most advanced simulation of an earthquake ever performed on a supercomputer focuses on California and its San Andreas Fault. A team led by Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC) director Thomas Jordan is using Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Jaguar supercomputer to simulate a magnitude-8 quake shaking a 125,000-square-mile area of Southern California and assess its impact on the region. The simulation has earned the team a slot as one of only six finalists for this year's Gordon Bell Prize, awarded to the world's most advanced scientific computing application.
Known as M8, the SCEC project simulates a 6-minute earthquake half again as powerful as the temblor that destroyed San Francisco in 1906 -- or 30 times as powerful as the quake that devastated Haiti in January.
According to SCEC information technology architect Philip Maechling, the center chose magnitude 8 because it is one of the largest quakes that could plausibly hit southern California.
"Some of these investigations, especially the one we just did on Jaguar, go back to a change from emergency management organizations after Hurricane Katrina," Maechling noted. "Before Katrina they were asking, 'What's likely to happen? Give us the most probable scenarios that we're going to have to face.' But after Katrina they changed the question and said, 'Tell us what's the worst that could happen.' My understanding is that they were changing the question because they want to be ready for not only the most likely, but also the worst case."
The San Andreas Fault forms the boundary between the Pacific and North American tectonic plates. The Pacific Plate includes a sliver of California and Baja California, as well as Hawaii and most of the Pacific Ocean, while the North American Plate includes the remainder of the United States, Greenland, and a hefty chunk of eastern Russia.
For the rest of the story, go to http://www.olcf.ornl.gov/2010/08/11/earthquake-simulation-rocks-southern-california/.
Source: Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility
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