Supercomputing Enables Climate Time Machine

By Tiffany Trader

September 23, 2013

September is Supercomputing Month at the Department of Energy (DOE), so the government labs are showcasing some of the ground-breaking research that’s come about thanks to advancements in HPC technology and expertise. While it’s difficult to think of a scientific discipline, or even an academic field, that has not benefited from the enabling boost of souped-up computational power, climate research stands out as being particularly dependent on these compute and data-intensive capabilities.

What makes climate change unique is the necessity for large-scale models that have multiple variables, each complex in their own right. These elements include sea temperatures, sea currents, sea ice, the interaction between the surface of the ocean and the atmosphere, air temperatures over land and the impact of clouds. A supercomputer has to take into account all these factors, and more, and calculate all the possible ways they can interact. Simulations can tie up the biggest supercomputers in the world for weeks at a time. The scope and necessity of such an endeavor is matched only by the largest of supercomputing centers, which in the US, means the DOE labs.

As the primary scientific computing facility for the DOE’s Office of Science, National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) – a division of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory – is one of the largest facilities in the world dedicated to basic science research. A sizable portion (12 percent) of the supercomputing resources at NERSC is allocated to global climate change research. That’s nearly 150 million processor-hours of highly-tuned computational might focused on an issue that is critical to humanity’s future.

With each generation of supercomputers exponentially more powerful, climate models grow increasingly detailed. Science Writer Jon Bashor notes that the best global models of the late 1990s treated the western United States from the Pacific Ocean to the Rocky Mountains as a uniform landmass, even though there are topological features, like mountains, deserts and bodies of water, that affect climate. With the advances in hardware and software over the last two decades, today’s models have improved resolution down to 10-kilometer square blocks, while the next generation will drill down to the 2-kilometer level. The more fine-grained the models become, the more accurate the predictions will be.

Climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing our planet today, so accuracy is extremely important. People want to know if the models can be trusted and to what degree. Confidence is especially critical in estimates of anthropogenic climate change. Models are often vetted by checking certain scenarios against real-world results. A common evaluation technique is to “predict” climate sequences that have already occurred. This kind of backwards-looking analysis was taken on by the 20th Century Reanalysis Project, under the leadership of Gil Compo of the University of Colorado, Boulder, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Earth System Research Laboratory. The project was awarded 8 million processor-hours at NERSC.

The project relies on a database of extreme global weather events from 1871 to the present day, culled from newspaper weather reports, measurements on land and sea for the first decades, and then as technology evolved, there were more detailed measurements from aircraft, satellites and other sensors. The team of top climate scientists fed the data into powerful supercomputers, including those at NERSC and the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility in Tennessee, to create virtual climate time machine.

Click on image to reveal full-sized graphic.

Simulations based on the model showed a remarkable degree of prescience. “The model accurately predicted a number of extreme weather conditions, including El Niño occurrences, the 1922 Knickerbocker snowstorm that hit the Atlantic Coast (causing the roof of the Knickerbocker Theater in Washington, D.C., to collapse, killing 98 people and injuring 133), the 1930s Dust Bowl and a hurricane that smashed into New York City in 1938,” reports Bashor.

The “predictions” were not only possible, but were calculated with great accuracy. Compo and his team had constructed a map of the the earth’s weather and climate variations since the late 1800s. The next step was using the data assimilation system for real predictions – specifically to anticipate future warming patterns.

As recently reported in Geophysical Research Letters, ongoing research carried out under the 20th Century Reanalysis Project has yielded independent confirmation of global land warming since 1901, providing further evidence of anthropogenic global climate change. Up to this point, the case for global climate warming rested on long-term measurements of air temperature from stations around the world. The Reanalysis Project, however, draws on other historical observations, including barometric pressure from 1901-2010.

“This is really the essence of science,” says Compo. “There is knowledge ‘A’ from one source and you think, ‘Can I get to that same knowledge from a completely different source?’ Since we had already produced the dataset, we looked at just how close our temperatures estimated using barometers were to the temperatures using thermometers.”

The 20th Century Reanalysis Project has been instrumental in boosting the confidence in estimates of past, present and future climate change, according to Compo. And because key variations and trends line up with traditional climate models, it increases the robustness of conclusions based on those data sets.

“If, for some reason, you didn’t believe global warming was happening, this confirms that global warming really has been occurring since the early 20th century,” notes Compo.

Related Items

DOE Supercomputer Hack Results in Guilty Plea 

One Step Closer to Fusion Energy 

Researchers Squeeze Record I/O from Hopper 

NERSC Managers Shed Light on ‘Edison’ 

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!

At Long Last, Supercomputing Helps to Map the Poles

August 22, 2019

“For years,” Paul Morin wrote, “those of us that made maps of the Poles apologized. We apologized for the blank spaces on maps, we apologized for mountains being in the wrong place and out-of-date information.” Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Xilinx Says Its New FPGA is World’s Largest

August 21, 2019

In this age of exploding “technology disaggregation” – in which the Big Bang emanating from the Intel x86 CPU has produced significant advances in CPU chips and a raft of alternative, accelerated architectures... Read more…

By Doug Black

Supercomputers Generate Universes to Illuminate Galactic Formation

August 20, 2019

With advanced imaging and satellite technologies, it’s easier than ever to see a galaxy – but understanding how they form (a process that can take billions of years) is a different story. Now, a team of researchers f Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

AWS Solution Channel

Efficiency and Cost-Optimization for HPC Workloads – AWS Batch and Amazon EC2 Spot Instances

High Performance Computing on AWS leverages the power of cloud computing and the extreme scale it offers to achieve optimal HPC price/performance. With AWS you can right size your services to meet exactly the capacity requirements you need without having to overprovision or compromise capacity. Read more…

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Bring the combined power of HPC and AI to your business transformation

FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) acceleration cards are not new, as they’ve been commercially available since 1984. Typically, the emphasis around FPGAs has centered on the fact that they’re programmable accelerators, and that they can truly offer workload specific hardware acceleration solutions without requiring custom silicon. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Keys to Attracting the Newest HPC Talent – Post-Millennials

[Connect with HPC users and learn new skills in the IBM Spectrum LSF User Community.]

For engineers and scientists growing up in the 80s, the current state of HPC makes perfect sense. Read more…

Singularity Moves Up the Container Value Chain

August 20, 2019

The enterprise version of the Singularity HPC container platform released this week by Sylabs is designed to allow users to create, secure and share the high-end containers in self-hosted production deployments. The e Read more…

By George Leopold

At Long Last, Supercomputing Helps to Map the Poles

August 22, 2019

“For years,” Paul Morin wrote, “those of us that made maps of the Poles apologized. We apologized for the blank spaces on maps, we apologized for mountains being in the wrong place and out-of-date information.” Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

IBM Deepens Plunge into Open Source; OpenPOWER to Join Linux Foundation

August 20, 2019

IBM today announced it was contributing the instruction set (ISA) for its Power microprocessor and the designs for the Open Coherent Accelerator Processor Inter 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

Scientists to Tap Exascale Computing to Unlock the Mystery of our Accelerating Universe

August 14, 2019

The universe and everything in it roared to life with the Big Bang approximately 13.8 billion years ago. It has continued expanding ever since. While we have a Read more…

By Rob Johnson

AI is the Next Exascale – Rick Stevens on What that Means and Why It’s Important

August 13, 2019

Twelve years ago the Department of Energy (DOE) was just beginning to explore what an exascale computing program might look like and what it might accomplish. Today, DOE is repeating that process for AI, once again starting with science community town halls to gather input and stimulate conversation. The town hall program... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader and John Russell

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

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

Lenovo Drives Single-Socket Servers with AMD Epyc Rome CPUs

August 7, 2019

No summer doldrums here. As part of the AMD Epyc Rome launch event in San Francisco today, Lenovo announced two new single-socket servers, the ThinkSystem SR635 Read more…

By Doug Black

High Performance (Potato) Chips

May 5, 2006

In this article, we focus on how Procter & Gamble is using high performance computing to create some common, everyday supermarket products. Tom Lange, a 27-year veteran of the company, tells us how P&G models products, processes and production systems for the betterment of consumer package goods. Read more…

By Michael Feldman

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

Cray, AMD to Extend DOE’s Exascale Frontier

May 7, 2019

Cray and AMD are coming back to Oak Ridge National Laboratory to partner on the world’s largest and most expensive supercomputer. The Department of Energy’s Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Graphene Surprises Again, This Time for Quantum Computing

May 8, 2019

Graphene is fascinating stuff with promise for use in a seeming endless number of applications. This month researchers from the University of Vienna and Institu Read more…

By John Russell

AMD Verifies Its Largest 7nm Chip Design in Ten Hours

June 5, 2019

AMD announced last week that its engineers had successfully executed the first physical verification of its largest 7nm chip design – in just ten hours. The AMD Radeon Instinct Vega20 – which boasts 13.2 billion transistors – was tested using a TSMC-certified Calibre nmDRC software platform from Mentor. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

TSMC and Samsung Moving to 5nm; Whither Moore’s Law?

June 12, 2019

With reports that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TMSC) and Samsung are moving quickly to 5nm manufacturing, it’s a good time to again ponder whither goes the venerable Moore’s law. Shrinking feature size has of course been the primary hallmark of achieving Moore’s law... Read more…

By John Russell

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

Deep Learning Competitors Stalk Nvidia

May 14, 2019

There is no shortage of processing architectures emerging to accelerate deep learning workloads, with two more options emerging this week to challenge GPU leader Nvidia. First, Intel researchers claimed a new deep learning record for image classification on the ResNet-50 convolutional neural network. Separately, Israeli AI chip startup Hailo.ai... Read more…

By George Leopold

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

Nvidia Embraces Arm, Declares Intent to Accelerate All CPU Architectures

June 17, 2019

As the Top500 list was being announced at ISC in Frankfurt today with an upgraded petascale Arm supercomputer in the top third of the list, Nvidia announced its Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Top500 Purely Petaflops; US Maintains Performance Lead

June 17, 2019

With the kick-off of the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC) in Frankfurt this morning, the 53rd Top500 list made its debut, and this one's for petafl Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Hardware That Powered the Black Hole Image

June 24, 2019

Two months ago, the first-ever image of a black hole took the internet by storm. A team of scientists took years to produce and verify the striking image – an Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Cray – and the Cray Brand – to Be Positioned at Tip of HPE’s HPC Spear

May 22, 2019

More so than with most acquisitions of this kind, HPE’s purchase of Cray for $1.3 billion, announced last week, seems to have elements of that overused, often Read more…

By Doug Black and Tiffany Trader

Chinese Company Sugon Placed on US ‘Entity List’ After Strong Showing at International Supercomputing Conference

June 26, 2019

After more than a decade of advancing its supercomputing prowess, operating the world’s most powerful supercomputer from June 2013 to June 2018, China is keep Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

Qualcomm Invests in RISC-V Startup SiFive

June 7, 2019

Investors are zeroing in on the open standard RISC-V instruction set architecture and the processor intellectual property being developed by a batch of high-flying chip startups. Last fall, Esperanto Technologies announced a $58 million funding round. Read more…

By George Leopold

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