Petascale Computing to Advance Climate Research

By Nicole Hemsoth

April 18, 2008

From the birth of HPC, climate research has had a voracious appetite for computing resources. John Drake, chief computational scientist for the Climate End Station at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, explains what petascale computing will do to help feed this hunger and how the lab’s work supports the mission of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

HPCwire: First, what is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and what is its main goal?

John Drake: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, was established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme to scientifically assess the global risk of climate change, its potential impact, and options for mitigation. Since that time the IPCC has published four climate change assessments, and a fifth assessment is scheduled for publication in 2013.

HPCwire: What does Oak Ridge National Laboratory have to do with the IPCC and climate research?

Drake: As the Department of Energy’s largest science and energy laboratory and a significant contributor to the fourth IPCC assessment, ORNL has been selected by the DOE and the National Science Foundation’s National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) as a Climate End Station (CES) to help with the fifth IPCC assessment. Warren Washington of NCAR is chief scientist for the CES and I’m chief computational scientist.

HPCwire: Can you provide a brief overview of the Climate End Station?

Drake: Sure. The CES is a vehicle for engaging the broader science interests of the climate community with focus on the contribution of high performance computing. Specifically the CES helps to organize and coordinate the computational efforts — from the perspectives of both development of scalable climate modeling software to prioritization and allocation of computer time. It includes a mechanism to manage computer allocations awarded by DOE through their INCITE program. Imagine everything that has to happen to develop projects and to do science along the way. That requires lots of computer time and lots of decisions about where to go next. The primary software that is developed and used by the climate community is called the Community Climate System Model (CCSM) and it is also a joint effort involving a broad collaborative community. DOE allocates computing resources for climate studies, and CES was put in place as a value-added organization, to give structure on top of individual allocations, to choose priorities, help to schedule projects, and determine what development and goals need to be met to keep to the schedule. The CES chooses priorities for our 20-million node-hour allocation and makes sure that the development for the IPCC assessment is on schedule.

As I mentioned, Warren Washington is the science PI on this. There’s an executive board that advises Warren on who’s ready to do what, when. Through INCITE we applied for a very large computer allocation across systems at ORNL, NERSC and ANL and were fortunate to receive an award commensurate with the needs and goals of the climate community. We’re targeting things related to climate change and the role of carbon, versus broad climate science.

HPCwire: What is the process of creating an IPCC assessment?

Drake: For the first three years of the five-year assessment cycle, we’re primarily concerned with determining what areas to study, tracking HPC advances so we know how detailed our models can be, deploying the most current HPC technology, and creating and testing the actual models. Then we freeze the models and spend the fourth year running simulations and gathering data for the different scenarios. In the fifth year, we write the papers that report our results and have those papers reviewed by different working groups within the IPCC community and by a variety of government agencies. The result is an assessment that includes thousands of pages of peer-reviewed results of climate change models.

HPCwire: Regarding the 5th IPCC assessment, you’ve discussed the need to include additional factors in the planning phase, such as biogeochemical factors and higher resolution of ice sheets. Are these new factors or were they in the 4th assessment but needing more computing power?

Drake: It’s a little bit of both. New scientific results and increased compute performance are making more comprehensive models possible. Take sea level rise, for instance. In the 4th assessment the modeling community didn’t have good information, so there wasn’t much to say on this topic. Current models are based on phenomena that don’t include the land ice sheet dynamics. We do know that thermal expansion of the ocean causes some of the rise. But very little modeling has been done to look at what’s happening to ice sheets, for example in Greenland or the Antarctic. We have no predictive ability at this point to say what will happen with the Greenland ice sheet. Field research, conversely, indicates that if we remain on our current course, the melting of these ice sheets could raise sea levels quite a bit more than we currently predict (30 to 40 cm in the year 2100) by factoring in only the thermal expansion of the ocean. The modeling community didn’t have answers for the 4th assessment. We’re working on that now.

HPCwire: They didn’t have answers because the compute power wasn’t big enough then?

Drake: It was insufficient compute power and other things. People didn’t think the ice sheet melting was changing that much. We needed more comprehensive models, and to get to more realistic models and simulation we need more compute power.

HPCwire: So, what goes into the 5th assessment is a combination of factors. You have to balance computing capability over the next five years with the number and kinds of elements you include in the model.

Drake: Right. In our process, the scientific steering committee tries to lay out the target architectures and model configurations, and then we go to a prototype to see how well we do. It doesn’t help if the model is so complex no one can run it. We try to include as much as possible until the productivity level takes a real hit. Below five simulated years per day, climate scientists can’t get much new work done. We design the model with as many physical effects as we can, then address scalability. With more processors we’ll be able to increase the complexity and intricacy of the models significantly.

HPCwire: Could the 4th assessment have been done without HPC?

Drake: Probably, but not with the same detail. The bigger problem was that despite important new results, the science wasn’t cooked enough yet to go even further.

HPCwire: How would you characterize the main focus of the 5th assessment?

Drake: This is an ongoing conversation. The 4th assessment is broadly viewed as really nailing down the question of whether global warming is occurring and the primary causes of global warming. The 5th will move past this and ask more detailed questions about regional climate change. It will aim to go beyond the global view of whether it’s occurring and look at how, where, and how fast it’s occurring, and in which specific geographic areas, along with the signs of global warming. The melting of the Arctic ice cap will be a larger focus and the 5th assessment will put more emphasis on high resolution to capture regional details and extreme events and their relation to global warming. We’ve also been emphasizing the relationship with the carbon cycle. That’s biogeochemistry and explores how agriculture and the ecosystem are going to react under climate change scenarios. For this we develop global carbon models. There will also be much more detail and foundational science about emissions. The IPCC work has always tried to define scenarios based on the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases. The results in the 4th assessment are turning out to be overly optimistic. The rate of increase of CO2 in the atmosphere is larger than any of the scenarios being studied. The upper-range scenarios laid out in the 4th assessment are now considered mid-range.

HPCwire: Is the biogeochemical factor a major addition in the 5th assessment?

Drake: It’s one of the major additions. So is the ice sheet model, having more regional detail, and the aerosol indirect effect. We haven’t had good observational data on this to date.

HPCwire: What’s the status of the new factors that will be in the 5th assessment?

Drake: We have alpha versions of the CCSM4. It’s ongoing work.

HPCwire: What are your main workhorse computers?

Drake: We currently have the Cray XT4 system that is being upgraded to 250 teraflops and a Cray X1E vector system. We expect to have the Cray petaflops system later this year.

HPCwire: Do you work closely with vendors like Cray to know what’s coming down the pike?

Drake: We try to. We look at software life cycle models based on about 10 to 20 computer systems that we have swapped in and out. It’s tough to adapt to new architectures, but we try to look into the future to begin adapting. Multicore is a case in point. We’ve been getting ready for this for several years. We’re in the process now of making adaptations to CCSM for the NCCS 250 teraflops Cray XT4 system, which is based upon the AMD quad-core processor.

HPCwire: Where are you on the road toward petascale computing?

Drake: We’re upgrading our Cray XT4 system to 250 teraflops already. That machine will stay put and a petaflops Cray system will be brought in by the end of the year. This machine is in line to be the first petascale system available to the climate modeling community in the world.

HPCwire: How important is a petaflops system in terms of what it will enable you to do? Does it have real meaning in terms of advancing the science?

Drake: It starts to get really interesting. There is talk of simulating the atmosphere at ½ degree or maybe even ¼ degree resolution. We could go 360 degrees around the equator, chopping up the earth into ½ degree or ¼ degree blocks. In the ocean, we are experimenting with models that go to 1/10 of a degree. At resolutions less than that, you’re not representing eddies and that’s important because this is where ocean heat transport takes place. The types of phenomena we’re going to see at these resolutions will be very interesting. We can look in much more detail at the Arctic ice cap, in particular.

HPCwire: What about microclimates?

Drake: These will become more detailed as well. We’ll be able to look at the amount of rain falling in the atmosphere and chop the land up into more refined areas to see land use, including agriculture use, and to see forests are and track deforestation, etc. We’re looking at 1 km resolution for land use that will be much more realistic.

HPCwire: What about biofuels research?

Drake: The Computational End Station will host a lot of research on biofuels. People are looking at whether agriculture will start to change. If we plant enough biofuel crops, how will this affect the climate? There could be significant effects. We’re able to do those kinds of studies now. The chemistry coupling is becoming available.
 
HPCwire: What do you need from hardware, software and vendors to advance climate research as we move toward petascale and exascale hardware?

Drake: There’s an increased need for these communities to work together. Applications have to deal with an increasingly complex memory hierarchy and heterogeneous processors. These are large changes, not incremental changes. We’d like software to solve the problems while we all stay in our corners, but we need to come together. There’s no silver bullet. Identifying parallelism at the granularity you need is a real challenge with high numbers of processors. We need tool developers, language developers and hardware vendors to balance these things correctly. You can see some of these interactions developing in the tools and performance monitoring efforts. High performance languages and optimized libraries that better fit the emerging architectures offer other challenges and opportunities for scaling application codes to thousands or millions of processors.

HPCwire: What’s coming down the pike in HPC that you’re excited about?

Drake: Special purpose processors being used for science, streaming processors in particular. There is a lot of potential around graphics boards and accelerator processors. A common, standard programming language is holding them up. There’s no standard HPC programming language on these systems yet. As this gets solved, and this looks to be coming along in the next year or so, there could be a big leap forward.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Microsoft, Nvidia Launch Cloud HPC

November 20, 2019

Nvidia and Microsoft have joined forces to offer a cloud HPC capability based on the GPU vendor’s V100 Tensor Core chips linked via an Infiniband network scaling up to 800 graphics processors. The partners announced Read more…

By George Leopold

Hazra Retiring from Intel Data Center Group, Successor Unknown

November 20, 2019

This article is an update to a story published earlier today. Rajeeb Hazra, corporate VP of Intel’s Data Center Group and GM for the Enterprise and Government Group, is retiring after more than 24 years at the compa Read more…

By Doug Black

Jensen Huang’s SC19 – Fast Cars, a Strong Arm, and Aiming for the Cloud(s)

November 20, 2019

We’ve come to expect Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang’s annual SC keynote to contain stunning graphics and lively bravado (with plenty of examples) in support of GPU-accelerated computing. In recent years, AI has joined the s Read more…

By John Russell

SC19 Student Cluster Competition: Know Your Teams

November 19, 2019

I’m typing this live from Denver, the location of the 2019 Student Cluster Competition… and, oh yeah, the annual SC conference too. The attendance this year should be north of 13,000 people, with the majority attende Read more…

By Dan Olds

Top500: US Maintains Performance Lead; Arm Tops Green500

November 18, 2019

The 54th Top500, revealed today at SC19, is a familiar list: the U.S. Summit (ORNL) and Sierra (LLNL) machines, offering 148.6 and 94.6 petaflops respectively, remain in first and second place. The only new entrants in t Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AWS Solution Channel

Making High Performance Computing Affordable and Accessible for Small and Medium Businesses with HPC on AWS

High performance computing (HPC) brings a powerful set of tools to a broad range of industries, helping to drive innovation and boost revenue in finance, genomics, oil and gas extraction, and other fields. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Data Management – The Key to a Successful AI Project

 

Five characteristics of an awesome AI data infrastructure

[Attend the IBM LSF & HPC User Group Meeting at SC19 in Denver on November 19!]

AI is powered by data

While neural networks seem to get all the glory, data is the unsung hero of AI projects – data lies at the heart of everything from model training to tuning to selection to validation. Read more…

ScaleMatrix and Nvidia Launch ‘Deploy Anywhere’ DGX HPC and AI in a Controlled Enclosure

November 18, 2019

HPC and AI in a phone booth: ScaleMatrix and Nvidia announced today at the SC19 conference in Denver a joint offering that puts up to 13 petaflops of Nvidia DGX-1 compute power in an air conditioned, water-cooled ScaleMa Read more…

By Doug Black

Hazra Retiring from Intel Data Center Group, Successor Unknown

November 20, 2019

This article is an update to a story published earlier today. Rajeeb Hazra, corporate VP of Intel’s Data Center Group and GM for the Enterprise and Governm Read more…

By Doug Black

Jensen Huang’s SC19 – Fast Cars, a Strong Arm, and Aiming for the Cloud(s)

November 20, 2019

We’ve come to expect Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang’s annual SC keynote to contain stunning graphics and lively bravado (with plenty of examples) in support of GPU Read more…

By John Russell

Top500: US Maintains Performance Lead; Arm Tops Green500

November 18, 2019

The 54th Top500, revealed today at SC19, is a familiar list: the U.S. Summit (ORNL) and Sierra (LLNL) machines, offering 148.6 and 94.6 petaflops respectively, Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ScaleMatrix and Nvidia Launch ‘Deploy Anywhere’ DGX HPC and AI in a Controlled Enclosure

November 18, 2019

HPC and AI in a phone booth: ScaleMatrix and Nvidia announced today at the SC19 conference in Denver a joint offering that puts up to 13 petaflops of Nvidia DGX Read more…

By Doug Black

Intel Debuts New GPU – Ponte Vecchio – and Outlines Aspirations for oneAPI

November 17, 2019

Intel today revealed a few more details about its forthcoming Xe line of GPUs – the top SKU is named Ponte Vecchio and will be used in Aurora, the first plann Read more…

By John Russell

SC19: Welcome to Denver

November 17, 2019

A significant swath of the HPC community has come to Denver for SC19, which began today (Sunday) with a rich technical program. As is customary, the ribbon cutt Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

SC19’s HPC Impact Showcase Chair: AI + HPC a ‘Speed Train’

November 16, 2019

This year’s chair of the HPC Impact Showcase at the SC19 conference in Denver is Lori Diachin, who has spent her career at the spearhead of HPC. Currently deputy director for the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Exascale Computing Project (ECP), Diachin is also... Read more…

By Doug Black

Cray, Fujitsu Both Bringing Fujitsu A64FX-based Supercomputers to Market in 2020

November 12, 2019

The number of top-tier HPC systems makers has shrunk due to a steady march of M&A activity, but there is increased diversity and choice of processing compon Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Supercomputer-Powered AI Tackles a Key Fusion Energy Challenge

August 7, 2019

Fusion energy is the Holy Grail of the energy world: low-radioactivity, low-waste, zero-carbon, high-output nuclear power that can run on hydrogen or lithium. T Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Using AI to Solve One of the Most Prevailing Problems in CFD

October 17, 2019

How can artificial intelligence (AI) and high-performance computing (HPC) solve mesh generation, one of the most commonly referenced problems in computational engineering? A new study has set out to answer this question and create an industry-first AI-mesh application... Read more…

By James Sharpe

Cray Wins NNSA-Livermore ‘El Capitan’ Exascale Contract

August 13, 2019

Cray has won the bid to build the first exascale supercomputer for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Lawrence Livermore National Laborator Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

DARPA Looks to Propel Parallelism

September 4, 2019

As Moore’s law runs out of steam, new programming approaches are being pursued with the goal of greater hardware performance with less coding. The Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency is launching a new programming effort aimed at leveraging the benefits of massive distributed parallelism with less sweat. Read more…

By George Leopold

AMD Launches Epyc Rome, First 7nm CPU

August 8, 2019

From a gala event at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco yesterday (Aug. 7), AMD launched its second-generation Epyc Rome x86 chips, based on its 7nm proce Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

D-Wave’s Path to 5000 Qubits; Google’s Quantum Supremacy Claim

September 24, 2019

On the heels of IBM’s quantum news last week come two more quantum items. D-Wave Systems today announced the name of its forthcoming 5000-qubit system, Advantage (yes the name choice isn’t serendipity), at its user conference being held this week in Newport, RI. Read more…

By John Russell

Ayar Labs to Demo Photonics Chiplet in FPGA Package at Hot Chips

August 19, 2019

Silicon startup Ayar Labs continues to gain momentum with its DARPA-backed optical chiplet technology that puts advanced electronics and optics on the same chip Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Crystal Ball Gazing: IBM’s Vision for the Future of Computing

October 14, 2019

Dario Gil, IBM’s relatively new director of research, painted a intriguing portrait of the future of computing along with a rough idea of how IBM thinks we’ Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

ISC 2019 Virtual Booth Video Tour

CRAY
CRAY
DDN
DDN
DELL EMC
DELL EMC
GOOGLE
GOOGLE
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
PANASAS
PANASAS
VERNE GLOBAL
VERNE GLOBAL

Intel Confirms Retreat on Omni-Path

August 1, 2019

Intel Corp.’s plans to make a big splash in the network fabric market for linking HPC and other workloads has apparently belly-flopped. The chipmaker confirmed to us the outlines of an earlier report by the website CRN that it has jettisoned plans for a second-generation version of its Omni-Path interconnect... Read more…

By Staff report

Kubernetes, Containers and HPC

September 19, 2019

Software containers and Kubernetes are important tools for building, deploying, running and managing modern enterprise applications at scale and delivering enterprise software faster and more reliably to the end user — while using resources more efficiently and reducing costs. Read more…

By Daniel Gruber, Burak Yenier and Wolfgang Gentzsch, UberCloud

Cray, Fujitsu Both Bringing Fujitsu A64FX-based Supercomputers to Market in 2020

November 12, 2019

The number of top-tier HPC systems makers has shrunk due to a steady march of M&A activity, but there is increased diversity and choice of processing compon Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Dell Ramps Up HPC Testing of AMD Rome Processors

October 21, 2019

Dell Technologies is wading deeper into the AMD-based systems market with a growing evaluation program for the latest Epyc (Rome) microprocessors from AMD. In a Read more…

By John Russell

Rise of NIH’s Biowulf Mirrors the Rise of Computational Biology

July 29, 2019

The story of NIH’s supercomputer Biowulf is fascinating, important, and in many ways representative of the transformation of life sciences and biomedical res Read more…

By John Russell

Xilinx vs. Intel: FPGA Market Leaders Launch Server Accelerator Cards

August 6, 2019

The two FPGA market leaders, Intel and Xilinx, both announced new accelerator cards this week designed to handle specialized, compute-intensive workloads and un Read more…

By Doug Black

When Dense Matrix Representations Beat Sparse

September 9, 2019

In our world filled with unintended consequences, it turns out that saving memory space to help deal with GPU limitations, knowing it introduces performance pen Read more…

By James Reinders

With the Help of HPC, Astronomers Prepare to Deflect a Real Asteroid

September 26, 2019

For years, NASA has been running simulations of asteroid impacts to understand the risks (and likelihoods) of asteroids colliding with Earth. Now, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are preparing for the next, crucial step in planetary defense against asteroid impacts: physically deflecting a real asteroid. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This