Irish Centre for High-End Computing Completes Major Climate Simulations

By Oliver Peckham

January 28, 2020

The new year marked a somber milestone for the planet: 2019 turned out to be the second-hottest year on record (inched out only by 2016, which was hotter by 0.04 degrees Celsius). With the climate crisis accelerating, understanding the intricacies of the global climate system and possible climate changes is more important than ever. Now, the Irish Centre for High-End Computing (ICHEC) has announced the completion of a series of global climate simulations on its supercomputing systems.

ICHEC ran five historical simulations of the climate from 1850 to 2014, but the bulk of their work focused on the future, with twenty simulations covering possible scenarios for the climate from 2015 to 2100. These latter simulations ran the gamut of the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs), a set of guidelines for how human development could unfold over the coming century that serve as a foundation for many climate simulations. The future simulations operated under the Scenario Model Intercomparison Project (ScenarioMIP), which aims to facilitate integrated climate research and simulation across many different countries, fields and institutions.

The simulations were run on ICHEC’s latest supercomputer, an Intel-based system called “Kay” with five main components: a cluster of 336 Intel Skylake nodes with 192 GB of RAM; 16 Intel Knights Landing nodes; six high-memory nodes with Intel Skylake CPUs and 1.5 TB of RAM; 16 GPU nodes with Nvidia Tesla V100s; and a set of service and storage nodes. Kay, which was installed in August 2018, was benchmarked at 665 Linpack teraflops.

The climate simulation datasets produced by ICHEC comprise around 500 TB and are hosted on ICHEC’s Earth System Grid Federation (ESGF) node for sharing across the climate research community. The results will be added to phase 6 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP6) and included for assessment in the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s next set of major climate change reports: the AR6 reports, which will release over the next several years.

In addition to the datasets, ICHEC also produced a series of visualizations, which are available to the public. The visualizations show simulated trends in temperature, precipitation and sea ice in four grouped SSP scenarios, ranging from more to less optimistic about humanity’s carbon trajectory. The temperature visualization is embedded below, but be sure to look at the precipitation and sea ice visualizations as well.

ICHEC’s research was conducted in collaboration with Met Éireann (the Irish national meteorological service) and was funded by Met Éireann, the Irish Environmental Protection Agency and the Irish Marine Institute.

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