Amazon, NCAR, SilverLining Team for Unprecedented Cloud Climate Simulations

By Oliver Peckham

September 10, 2021

Earth’s climate is, to put it mildly, not in a good place. In the wake of a damning report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), scientists and HPC practitioners are sounding the alarm bells even louder: climate change is real, it’s here and it’s accelerating. Now, Amazon and nonprofit SilverLining are teaming up to help the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) run the first-ever full-production climate simulations hosted on the cloud.

“The models and data we rely on to understand the earth system require vast, sophisticated computing resources, which constrain climate research and who can participate in it,” said Kelly Wanser, executive director of SilverLining. To address that constraint, the nonprofit teamed with the Amazon Sustainability Data Initiative, which is donating Amazon Web services cloud resources, technical support and early access to next-gen HPC solutions.

Those resources will be used to support 30 simulations of Earth’s climate system from 2022 to 2070 (“near term” simulations) under a median warming scenario. Some of these simulations will include additional compute-intensive factors, such as atmospheric particles that produce a negative feedback effect on warming. These particle tests represent cutting-edge investigation of solar climate intervention – one form of the (often controversial) approach known as geoengineering, through which humans might aim to mitigate the effects of climate change after the fact. The simulations will use NCAR’s Community Earth System Model Version 2 and Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model and will also be mirrored by the UK’s Met Office.

“As the world prepares to gather for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, we are providing AWS’s advanced cloud technologies to help accelerate climate research,” said Kara Hurst, vice president of worldwide sustainability at Amazon. “It is critical that we understand how our planet’s climate is changing and how it will impact communities and business. Amazon is proud to work with NCAR, one of the world’s leading climate modeling centers, and innovative organizations like SilverLining, to accelerate progress in climate research and to expand access to powerful research tools and data to more people around the world.”

The resulting data will have a wide range of applications across the sciences, and as a result, the partners have agreed to host the dataset freely on AWS, allowing researchers open access.

“The complexity of the Earth system makes climate model projections one of the most demanding and computing-intensive problems in all of science,” said Jean-François Lamarque, director of the Climate and Global Dynamics Laboratory at NCAR. “Cloud hosting of climate-model simulations can accelerate the pace of science and enable far wider access for, and more meaningful collaboration with, researchers around the world.”

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