Climate Scientists Use The World’s Largest Supercomputer

British meteorologists are to use the world’s largest supercomputer to help them predict the evolution of the Earth’s climate in the 21st century with unprecedented accuracy.

Scientists at the NCAS Centre for Global Atmospheric Modelling (CGAM), based at the University of Reading, have been awarded £700,000 from NERC to work with the state-of-the-art Earth Simulator in Yokohama, Japan. This is part of a formal collaboration between CGAM, the Met Office’s Hadley Centre, the University of Tokyo and the Earth Simulator Centre.

Housed in a special building the size of four tennis courts, the Earth Simulator is the world’s biggest and fastest supercomputer. Its 640 nodes, each consisting of eight powerful vector processors, are linked together by 83,000 high speed cables. The supercomputer has a sustained performance of 35.86 Teraflops and a main memory of 10 Terabytes.

The Earth Simulator’s immense capabilities allow the UK scientists to run new and highly detailed mathematical models of the Earth system. It will be possible to include important interactions between, for example, the climate and ecosystems, and to use much higher resolution to capture weather systems more faithfully.

Professor Julia Slingo, CGAM’s Director, says: “The Earth Simulator is 10 times more powerful than anything currently available to scientists in the UK. It will give us new insights into the processes that determine climate variability, such as El Nino, and interactions between the Gulf Stream and Atlantic weather systems.

“It will also help us determine how human behaviour will affect the climate in the coming decades, and will enable us to make more detailed assessments of the regional impacts of climate change, such as the increase in extreme events.”

CGAM is also coordinating a major NERC Consortium on ‘Grand Challenge High Resolution Modelling of the Global Environment (UK-HiGEM)’. UK-HiGEM has been awarded £1.2 million over the next three years, which will be used to exploit the power of the new Research Council Supercomputer, HPCx. With the Earth Simulator Programme, UK-HiGEM will place Reading at the leading edge of climate modelling within the UK academic community.

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