One of the most powerful supercomputers in the world, the new 1.5 petaflop IBM machine, is being devoted to climate change at the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s (NCAR) Wyoming Supercomputing Center in Cheyenne, Wyoming. It will help to study everything from hurricanes to tornadoes, to air pollution and even water beneath the Earth’s surface.
This is not be the first very powerful computer devoted to climate change, with NASA and the Department of Energy both working with supercomputers to run climate simulations and advance clean technology. However, this the most powerful computer in the world focused exclusively on the environment.
The computer, named Yellowstone, can run 1.5 quadrillion calculations per second, ranking it among the top 20 most powerful computers in the world. The performance cluster is powered by 72,888 Intel Sandy Bridge EP processor cores, the storage is made up of 144.6 terabytes, and the system visualizes all the data processed. Yellowstone can run an experimental short-term weather forecast in nine minutes, a process that took NCAR’s previous computer three hours.
All this will allow Yellowstone to run complex Earth processes that will help researchers find answers to the many problems being brought on by climate change. It will model things like loss of sea ice in the Arctic, sea levels and coastal erosion, wildfire patterns, air quality, and precipitation changes around the world.
This has the potential to provide long-term forecast predictions and other solutions which would allow farmers, shipping companies, and utility workers to adequately prepare for droughts and other natural disasters. It could help prevent potential food shortages and devastated economies.
Image courtesy of NCAR, Carlye Calvin: Yellowstone supercomputer