Proving the Case for Climate Change with Hi-Res Models

By Aaron Dubrow

August 2, 2012

Numerical weather prediction was one of the original computing problems. When the ENIAC, the first electronic general-purpose computer, came online in 1947, simulations of the atmosphere (along with missile trajectories) was one of the first problems scientists ran on the system.

James Kinter, director of the Center for Ocean-Land-Atmosphere Studies at the Institute of Global Environment and Society, presented this historical tidbit on the second morning of the recent XSEDE12 conference in Chicago. He then showcased the latest advances in climate and weather modeling enabled by the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE), the National Science Foundation (NSF)-supported cyberinfrastructure for open science.

His talk, “Benefits and Challenges of High Spatial Resolution Climate Models,” included the results of simulations of climate runs between 2008 and 2011 on TeraGrid and XSEDE systems (TeraGrid was the predecessor to XSEDE).

The presentation covered three major research projects funded by the NSF: (1) Project Athena – Resolving Mesoscales in the Atmosphere; (2) PetaApps Team – Resolving Ocean Eddies; and (3) CMMAP – Super-Parameterization and Resolving Clouds, a project led by David Randall at Colorado State University. Cumulatively, these projects, each of which involves dozens of researchers internationally, show the ability of simulations and scientific visualization to depict our warming Earth on a regional scale with uncanny accuracy.

“You might think there’s a debate about climate change,” Kinter said. “But in my community, we’ve gotten past the point of it being a debate. However, our climate models are not perfect.” Climate change deniers leap on these imperfections to challenge whether we can trust the models. “To answer this question, we have to prove the case,” he said.

In the last 50 years, the field of climate and weather modeling has taken advantage of the million-fold increase in computing power to make three improvements to the codes that mimic the atmosphere.

According to Kinter, scientists have improved our understanding of the physical processes involved in atmospheric modeling and incorporated these insights into the evolving codes. They have developed better data assimilation methods to incorporate information from satellites, Doppler radar and ocean monitoring sensors into their models. And they have increased spatial resolution, or the amount of fine-grained detail, that can be included in the simulations.

There is evidence that this last step — enhanced spatial resolution — can not only improve climate model fidelity, but also change our understanding of climate dynamics both qualitatively and quantitatively.

The big question, though, is: “What’s the bang for the buck when you start looking at high resolution?” To test this, Kinter and his colleagues simulated a variety of climate scenarios at resolutions ranging from 7 kilometers (the most fine-grained) to 125 kilometers (the most coarse-grained).

To accomplish this massive computing feat, Kinter’s team was granted a special allocation of computing time on the Athena supercomputer at the National Institute for Computational Sciences (NICS) in 2009 and 2010. For six months, the entire 18,048-core system was at the disposal of the team. Based on those runs and follow-ups on other high performance computing systems, his group has published more than a half dozen publications that run the gamut from the dynamics of tropical storm and cyclone formation to global and regional rainfall forecasts.

Among the results he presented at the conference were simulations that represented boreal summer climatology at 7-kilometer resolution over the course of eight summers. Previously researchers had only been able to simulate a single week or month at this level of detail.

Animation of boreal summer 2009 simulation at 7 km resolution using the NICAM model from JAMSTEC and University of Tokyo.

Earlier simulations produced by many groups around the world showed trends of modeled surface temperature change over the last century that have a statistically significant separation at the global and large continental scale between simulations that include the human influence on climate (increasing greenhouse gases and aerosols) and those that don’t. This was “the smoking gun of whether humans are responsible for the rise in temperature,” Kinter said.

However, the trends at regional scale are not as discernible. Is that because the trends are not there or because the models lack the acuity to see them? Kinter and his colleagues’ investigations of high spatial resolution shed light on this question.

Other simulations explored the probability of extreme drought in the Midwest, Europe and elsewhere in the future. By his estimates, the Midwest will experience the levels of extreme drought it is currently experiencing in 20 years out of every 50 — a four-fold increase. “This drought will be the norm at the end of the 21st century,” Kinter said, “according to these simulations.”

He also presented a number of key examples where increases in model resolution impacted the clarity and content of results. For instance, he cited research by collaborators that showed how low-resolution models of the East Coast Gulf Stream put rain associated with the weather pattern in the wrong place, whereas high-resolution models delineate the bands of rain off the East Coast with accuracy.

After outlining the advantages of higher-resolution models, Kinter elaborated on the challenges that such a change generates. Biases in the models, the parameterization of small time and spatial scale effects (like clouds), and the coupling of global climate models with cloud resolving models, are all difficult, but not impossible, to overcome. However, the primary challenge that Kinter’s group and the community are dealing with is the “exaflood of data” produced by high-resolution and highly complex coupled models.

For Project Athena, the total data volume generated and now resident at NICS is 1.2 petabytes. However, the total data volume on spinning disk at the Center for Ocean-Land-Atmosphere Studies for Project Athena is capped at 50 terabytes. This creates difficulties.

Running on TeraGrid systems at large-scale for the first time with so much data, “everything broke,” Kinter said. He and his colleagues had to find ad hoc solutions to complete the simulations. The next step, he said, is to take those ad hoc solutions and use them to develop systematic, repeatable solutions.

Put another way: to deal with the exaflood, the community needs to progress from Noah’s Ark to a professional shipping industry. “We need exaflood insurance,” Kinter concluded. “That’s what we’re calling on the XSEDE team to help us with.”

The following contributed to the work described in this article: Deepthi Achutavarier, Jennifer Adams, Eric Altshuler, Troy Baer, Cecilia Bitz, Frank Bryan, Ben Cash, William Collins, John Dennis, Paul Dirmeyer, Matt Ezell, Christian Halloy, Mats Hamrud, Nathan Hearn, Bohua Huang, Emilia Jin, Dwayne John, Pete Johnsen, Thomas Jung, Ben Kirtman, Chihiro Kodama, Richard Loft, Bruce Loftis, Julia Manganello, Larry Marx, Martin Miller, Per Nyberg, Tim Palmer, David Randall and the CMMAP Team, Clem Rousset, Masaki Satoh, Ben Shaw, Leo Siqueira, Cristiana Stan, Robert Tomas, Hirofumi Tomita, Peter Towers and Mariana Vertenstein, Tom Wakefield, Nils Wedi, Kwai Wong, and Yohei Yamada.


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!

Google Cloud Makes Good on Promise to Add Nvidia P100 GPUs

September 21, 2017

Google has taken down the notice on its cloud platform website that says Nvidia Tesla P100s are “coming soon.” That's because the search giant has announced the beta launch of the high-end P100 Nvidia Tesla GPUs on t Read more…

By George Leopold

Cray Wins $48M Supercomputer Contract from KISTI

September 21, 2017

It was a good day for Cray which won a $48 million contract from the Korea Institute of Science and Technology Information (KISTI) for a 128-rack CS500 cluster supercomputer. The new system, equipped with Intel Xeon Scal Read more…

By John Russell

Adolfy Hoisie to Lead Brookhaven’s Computing for National Security Effort

September 21, 2017

Brookhaven National Laboratory announced today that Adolfy Hoisie will chair its newly formed Computing for National Security department, which is part of Brookhaven’s new Computational Science Initiative (CSI). Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPE Prepares Customers for Success with the HPC Software Portfolio

High performance computing (HPC) software is key to harnessing the full power of HPC environments. Development and management tools enable IT departments to streamline installation and maintenance of their systems as well as create, optimize, and run their HPC applications. Read more…

PNNL’s Center for Advanced Tech Evaluation Seeks Wider HPC Community Ties

September 21, 2017

Two years ago the Department of Energy established the Center for Advanced Technology Evaluation (CENATE) at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). CENATE’s ambitious mission was to be a proving ground for near- Read more…

By John Russell

Stanford University and UberCloud Achieve Breakthrough in Living Heart Simulations

September 21, 2017

Cardiac arrhythmia can be an undesirable and potentially lethal side effect of drugs. During this condition, the electrical activity of the heart turns chaotic, Read more…

By Wolfgang Gentzsch, UberCloud, and Francisco Sahli, Stanford University

PNNL’s Center for Advanced Tech Evaluation Seeks Wider HPC Community Ties

September 21, 2017

Two years ago the Department of Energy established the Center for Advanced Technology Evaluation (CENATE) at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). CENAT Read more…

By John Russell

Exascale Computing Project Names Doug Kothe as Director

September 20, 2017

The Department of Energy’s Exascale Computing Project (ECP) has named Doug Kothe as its new director effective October 1. He replaces Paul Messina, who is stepping down after two years to return to Argonne National Laboratory. Kothe is a 32-year veteran of DOE’s National Laboratory System. Read more…

Takeaways from the Milwaukee HPC User Forum

September 19, 2017

Milwaukee’s elegant Pfister Hotel hosted approximately 100 attendees for the 66th HPC User Forum (September 5-7, 2017). In the original home city of Pabst Blu Read more…

By Merle Giles

Kathy Yelick Charts the Promise and Progress of Exascale Science

September 15, 2017

On Friday, Sept. 8, Kathy Yelick of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley, delivered the keynote address on “Breakthrough Science at the Exascale” at the ACM Europe Conference in Barcelona. In conjunction with her presentation, Yelick agreed to a short Q&A discussion with HPCwire. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

DARPA Pledges Another $300 Million for Post-Moore’s Readiness

September 14, 2017

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) launched a giant funding effort to ensure the United States can sustain the pace of electronic innovation vital to both a flourishing economy and a secure military. Under the banner of the Electronics Resurgence Initiative (ERI), some $500-$800 million will be invested in post-Moore’s Law technologies. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Breaks Ground for Complex Quantum Chemistry

September 14, 2017

IBM has reported the use of a novel algorithm to simulate BeH2 (beryllium-hydride) on a quantum computer. This is the largest molecule so far simulated on a quantum computer. The technique, which used six qubits of a seven-qubit system, is an important step forward and may suggest an approach to simulating ever larger molecules. Read more…

By John Russell

Cubes, Culture, and a New Challenge: Trish Damkroger Talks about Life at Intel—and Why HPC Matters More Than Ever

September 13, 2017

Trish Damkroger wasn’t looking to change jobs when she attended SC15 in Austin, Texas. Capping a 15-year career within Department of Energy (DOE) laboratories, she was acting Associate Director for Computation at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). Her mission was to equip the lab’s scientists and research partners with resources that would advance their cutting-edge work... Read more…

By Jan Rowell

How ‘Knights Mill’ Gets Its Deep Learning Flops

June 22, 2017

Intel, the subject of much speculation regarding the delayed, rewritten or potentially canceled “Aurora” contract (the Argonne Lab part of the CORAL “ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Reinders: “AVX-512 May Be a Hidden Gem” in Intel Xeon Scalable Processors

June 29, 2017

Imagine if we could use vector processing on something other than just floating point problems.  Today, GPUs and CPUs work tirelessly to accelerate algorithms Read more…

By James Reinders

NERSC Scales Scientific Deep Learning to 15 Petaflops

August 28, 2017

A collaborative effort between Intel, NERSC and Stanford has delivered the first 15-petaflops deep learning software running on HPC platforms and is, according Read more…

By Rob Farber

Russian Researchers Claim First Quantum-Safe Blockchain

May 25, 2017

The Russian Quantum Center today announced it has overcome the threat of quantum cryptography by creating the first quantum-safe blockchain, securing cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, along with classified government communications and other sensitive digital transfers. Read more…

By Doug Black

Oracle Layoffs Reportedly Hit SPARC and Solaris Hard

September 7, 2017

Oracle’s latest layoffs have many wondering if this is the end of the line for the SPARC processor and Solaris OS development. As reported by multiple sources Read more…

By John Russell

Six Exascale PathForward Vendors Selected; DoE Providing $258M

June 15, 2017

The much-anticipated PathForward awards for hardware R&D in support of the Exascale Computing Project were announced today with six vendors selected – AMD Read more…

By John Russell

Google Debuts TPU v2 and will Add to Google Cloud

May 25, 2017

Not long after stirring attention in the deep learning/AI community by revealing the details of its Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), Google last week announced the Read more…

By John Russell

Top500 Results: Latest List Trends and What’s in Store

June 19, 2017

Greetings from Frankfurt and the 2017 International Supercomputing Conference where the latest Top500 list has just been revealed. Although there were no major Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

IBM Clears Path to 5nm with Silicon Nanosheets

June 5, 2017

Two years since announcing the industry’s first 7nm node test chip, IBM and its research alliance partners GlobalFoundries and Samsung have developed a proces Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Graphcore Readies Launch of 16nm Colossus-IPU Chip

July 20, 2017

A second $30 million funding round for U.K. AI chip developer Graphcore sets up the company to go to market with its “intelligent processing unit” (IPU) in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Releases Deeplearn.js to Further Democratize Machine Learning

August 17, 2017

Spreading the use of machine learning tools is one of the goals of Google’s PAIR (People + AI Research) initiative, which was introduced in early July. Last w Read more…

By John Russell

EU Funds 20 Million Euro ARM+FPGA Exascale Project

September 7, 2017

At the Barcelona Supercomputer Centre on Wednesday (Sept. 6), 16 partners gathered to launch the EuroEXA project, which invests €20 million over three-and-a-half years into exascale-focused research and development. Led by the Horizon 2020 program, EuroEXA picks up the banner of a triad of partner projects — ExaNeSt, EcoScale and ExaNoDe — building on their work... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Amazon Debuts New AMD-based GPU Instances for Graphics Acceleration

September 12, 2017

Last week Amazon Web Services (AWS) streaming service, AppStream 2.0, introduced a new GPU instance called Graphics Design intended to accelerate graphics. The Read more…

By John Russell

Cray Moves to Acquire the Seagate ClusterStor Line

July 28, 2017

This week Cray announced that it is picking up Seagate's ClusterStor HPC storage array business for an undisclosed sum. "In short we're effectively transitioning the bulk of the ClusterStor product line to Cray," said CEO Peter Ungaro. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

GlobalFoundries: 7nm Chips Coming in 2018, EUV in 2019

June 13, 2017

GlobalFoundries has formally announced that its 7nm technology is ready for customer engagement with product tape outs expected for the first half of 2018. The Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This