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SciDAC Funding for Local Climate Modelers

ORNL co-leads a team that will receive $20 million in funding over the next five years from the Department of Energy to speed the development of computer models to predict climate change and to improve the representation of physical, chemical, and biological processes. The funding comes from DOE’s Scientific Discovery through Advanced Computing (SciDAC) Program. The project, awarded jointly to ORNL and Los Alamos National Laboratory, will allow the labs to develop a climate model that will provide a scientific basis for evaluating policy alternatives.

The computer image shows climate variations over several different decades.
ORNL and other groups involved in climate research are using supercomputers to address this key science question: How will the earth’s climate respond to physical, chemical, and biological changes produced by global alterations of the atmosphere, the oceans, and land. The computer image above shows climate variations over several different decades. These variations indicate long-term climatological factors. Comparisons of decadal averages clearly show polar warming trends, especially in the north.

“It’s difficult to assess the effects of policies if we do not have accurate models,” says John Drake of ORNL’s Computer Science and Mathematics Division. “This funding will allow us to develop tools to provide accurate information to policymakers looking at the potential effects of increased greenhouse gases.”

A climate model solves the complex physical equations that balance atmospheric and oceanic flows with incoming solar radiation and energy absorption. The project focuses on model development and the software design and engineering required by the climate research community to develop and maintain a high-quality climate prediction capability that effectively uses high-performance computers.

High-performance computers that have thousands of processors acting simultaneously require scalable software to take advantage of unprecedented computer power. The focus of the DOE effort is on joining the atmospheric, oceanic, and sea-ice submodels in a way that efficiently uses the supercomputers at ORNL and other national laboratories. “We have two primary goals,” Drake says. “First, we want to restructure and redesign the climate-model components with a view to enhancing performance on a range of computing platforms. Second, we hope to extend the model for more realistic climate simulations by including hydrological and chemical processes with interactive carbon cycles.”

Other institutions involved in the project are DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, as well as the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

In support of the rapidly growing field of climate-simulation science, DOE’s Center for Computational Sciences (CCS) at ORNL has also initiated a new focus area called Climate and Carbon Research (CCR). Its role is to conduct world-class computational climate research and use the hardware and software tools in the CCS to assess future climate simulations. The CCR director is David Erickson. CCR staff will work closely with researchers at other DOE labs, NASA, the National Science Foundation supercomputer centers, and universities on important issues regarding climate simulation.

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Related Web sites

DOE's Scientific Discovery Through Advanced Computing Program
ORNL Computer Science and Mathematics Division
Center for Computational Sciences

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