Is Weather and Climate Prediction the Perfect ‘Pilot’ for Exascale?

By Oliver Peckham

June 21, 2019

At ISC 2019 this week, Peter Bauer – deputy director of research for the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) – outlined an ambitious vision for the future of weather and climate prediction. For Bauer, weather and climate prediction isn’t just an application for exascale — it might be the application: the use case with the greatest challenges – and the greatest potential to showcase the power of exascale computing.

Peter Bauer presents at ISC 2019.

Bauer didn’t linger on the obvious – that now, more than ever, climate and weather prediction have tremendous economic and life-threatening stakes; that predictive failures enable an ongoing and “staggering” loss of life and property. (“So,” Bauer said, “it’s really important.”)

Instead, he pressed on to the core question. “Despite us being high-tech, we have these significant shortcomings. What do we do about it?”

Obstacles

Bauer stressed the scale of the task: weather and climate prediction posed a multi-physics, multi-scale geophysical fluid dynamics problem that needed to incorporate vegetation and a slew of other complicating variables. “Our requirement,” he concluded, “is of the order of a thousand [times] what we are able to do now.” This requirement, he explained, extended to both high-performance computing and data management resources. Weather and climate modeling needed the exascale era.

But this orders-of-magnitude leap in resources is only one of the problems. Due to coding inefficiencies, current weather and climate prediction models only reach about 5 percent efficiency on supercomputers, placing the sector even further away from “true exascale.”

Moreover, the modeling needs don’t stop at accurate atmospheric prediction. “Think of a heat wave or drought that we had last year, for example, in Europe,” Bauer said. “You immediately have to think, if there’s vegetation stress — forest fires; air pollution; impact on human health. So this entire value chain of applications is important as well and needs to be integrated.”

“It’s not just a weather forecast model,” he continued. “It’s really an earth and society forecast model that eventually needs to address these challenges and, again, this has a footprint on technology.”

Homework

Bauer then turned an eye inward toward the weather and climate prediction community. “Have we done our homework?” he asked.

The question, of course, was mostly rhetorical.

Bauer elaborated on the many “inventive” paths the community had taken to maximize returns, despite their resource and coding limitations: parallelizing and vectorizing codes for CPUs; investing in mixed-precision, concurrency, and parallel I/O; dissecting code and analyzing subcomponents; machine learning for surrogate modeling; GPU and FPGA code trials; and more.

Ongoing weather and climate prediction community efforts. Image courtesy Peter Bauer/ISC 2019.

Bauer also highlighted how weather and climate prediction researchers had come together as a community, working to ensure that tools, science and algorithms were complementary and engaging with large-scale organizations that had clear and productive goals.

The path forward

To move meaningfully forward, Bauer argued, would require an active, fundamental shift in the weather and climate modeling landscape. “After all the struggles that we have seen over the last decade or so,” he said, “I think we understand that we will never gain effective value from just sitting around and waiting for a solution.”

Bauer presented a solution roadmap in two categories: “algorithms and codes” and “data handling and workflows.” For the most part, the two categories shared solutions – “do less,” “do it cheaper,” “do it on new technology” and “do it yourself.” Bauer broadly recommended streamlining the data workflow using a “generic approach to data structures” to ensure that data was flexible and efficient, as well as using precision, concurrency, and machine learning to reduce resource use.

Regarding precision, Bauer had particularly strong thoughts. “I think single-precision is done,” he said, indicating successfully so. “When I say mixed precision, I will go even harder; you can ask other certain parts of your algorithms that actually favor half-precision or different types of standard-precision standards.”

As for “do it yourself”? “There are no generic solutions,” Bauer explained, “For the part in the middle – the separation of concerns between the top level of algorithmic layers and a diverse range of hardware to which you might want to delegate all your different problems.”

Bauer also highlighted the value of a number of other improvements: code translation for different types of interfaces, data workflow resilience, object-based data storage and more.

In terms of ongoing approaches, Bauer shone a spotlight on ExtremeEarth — a European program designed to “revolutionize Europe’s capability to predict and monitor environmental extremes and their impacts on society,” built on an integration of edge and exascale computing — but lacking sufficient funding.

A pilot demonstration for exascale computing

Bauer presented a question: “exascale systems present a vision for weather and climate prediction – can we meet the challenges?” But then, he said, he started to look at it differently. He posed a new question: “weather and climate prediction present a vision for exascale systems – can we meet the challenges?”

“I think,” Bauer mused, “we’re actually a pilot demonstration for an exascale system.”

“First, we have world science leadership, certainly in Europe – but in other places as well – where we also have technology leadership,” he explained. “It’s obvious, needless to say, that weather and climate have outstanding socioeconomic impacts … and that urgent action is needed. The response to climate change impacts can’t wait for 20 years until we have another generation of supercomputers – we need to find solutions now.”

The exascale goal, Bauer stressed, ties into all of this – from the hardware to the machine learning to the data handling – and the well-integrated weather and climate modeling community was prepared to put in the work. “I think we’re very ready to embrace new technologies,” he said. “I think we’re actually ready to redesign our applications top to bottom.” This way, weather and climate modeling could serve as a pilot that demonstrated the massive value of exascale systems.

“We’re ready,” he said, matter-of-factly. “And weather and climate is the perfect application for exascale.”

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!

Better Scientific Software: Turn Your Passion into Cash

September 13, 2019

Do you know your way around scientific software and programming? You think you can contribute to the community by making scientific software better? If so, then the Better Scientific Software (BSSW) organization wants yo Read more…

By Dan Olds

Google’s ML Compiler Initiative Advances

September 12, 2019

Machine learning models running on everything from cloud platforms to mobile phones are posing new challenges for developers faced with growing tool complexity. Google’s TensorFlow team unveiled an open-source machine Read more…

By George Leopold

HPC Perspectives with Dr. Seid Koric

September 12, 2019

Brendan McGinty, director of Industry for the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, kicks off the first in a series of pieces profiling leaders in high performance computing (HPC), writing for the... Read more…

By Brendan McGinty

AWS Solution Channel

A Guide to Discovering the Best AWS Instances and Configurations for Your HPC Workload

The flexibility and heterogeneity of HPC cloud services provide a welcome contrast to the constraints of on-premises HPC. Every HPC configuration is potentially accessible to any given workload in a well-resourced cloud HPC deployment, with vast scalability to spin up as much compute as that workload demands in any given moment. Read more…

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Intel FPGAs: More Than Just an Accelerator Card

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

Building a Solid IA for Your AI

The journey to high performance precision medicine starts with designing and deploying a solid Information Architecture that addresses the spectrum of challenges from data and applications that need to be managed and orchestrated together to empower workloads from analytics to AI. Read more…

IDAS: ‘Automagic’ HPC With Training Wheels

September 12, 2019

High-performance computing (HPC) for research is notorious for having steep barriers to entry. For this reason, high-tech disciplines were early adopters, have used the most cycles and typically drove hardware and softwa Read more…

By Elizabeth Leake

IDAS: ‘Automagic’ HPC With Training Wheels

September 12, 2019

High-performance computing (HPC) for research is notorious for having steep barriers to entry. For this reason, high-tech disciplines were early adopters, have Read more…

By Elizabeth Leake

Univa Brings Cloud Automation to Slurm Users with Navops Launch 2.0

September 11, 2019

Univa, the company behind Grid Engine, announced today its HPC cloud-automation platform NavOps Launch will support the popular open-source workload scheduler Slurm. With the release of NavOps Launch 2.0, “Slurm users will have access to the same cloud automation capabilities... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

Eyes on the Prize: TACC’s Frontera Quickly Ramps up Science Agenda

September 9, 2019

Announced a year ago and officially launched a week ago, the Texas Advanced Computing Center’s Frontera – now the fastest academic supercomputer (~25 petefl Read more…

By John Russell

Quantum Roundup: IBM Goes to School, Delft Tackles Networking, Rigetti Updates

September 5, 2019

IBM today announced a new open source quantum ‘textbook’, a series of quantum education videos, and plans to expand its nascent quantum hackathon program. L Read more…

By John Russell

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

Fastest Academic Supercomputer Enters Full Production at TACC, Just in Time for Hurricane Season

September 3, 2019

Frontera, the NSF supercomputer installed at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) in June, passed its formal acceptance last week and is now officially la Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

MIT Prepares for Satori…and a New 2 Petaflops Computer Too

August 27, 2019

Sometime this fall, MIT will fire up Satori – an $11.6 million compute cluster donated by IBM and coinciding with the opening of the MIT Stephen A. Schwarzma Read more…

By John Russell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Intel Debuts Pohoiki Beach, Its 8M Neuron Neuromorphic Development System

July 17, 2019

Neuromorphic computing has received less fanfare of late than quantum computing whose mystery has captured public attention and which seems to have generated mo Read more…

By John Russell

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