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NASA Supercomputing Cube-Based Ocean/Climate Modeling

nasaResearchers at NASA”s Jet Propulsion Laboratory [JPL] and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology [MIT] are using a new girdding method that projects the faces of a cube onto the surface of a sphere.  They’ve found that the new method improves the accuracy near the Earth’s poles. Scientists believe the ocean and its interaction with the atmosphere are key factors to studying climate change.  They’ve identified three areas in climate research to better understand these interactions.  First, they look at the ‘states’ of the ocean and sea-ice.  Second, they look at the ‘state’ of the atmosphere.  Finally, they study the biological activity in the ocean and its responses to the changing ‘state’ of the ocean.  The JPL/MIT team performed their research on machines at the NASA Advanced Supercomputing [NAS] facility at the Ames Research Center.

The NASA Advanced Supercomputers (NAS) facilities at Ames Research Center have been critical to our cube-based approach. We were able to scale the cube at higher resolutions to improve model accuracy,” said Chris Hill, a MIT science researcher. “Without the NAS resources, both hardware and people, we would not have been able to perform these calculations in a timely manner.”

Initially, the runs were done on the NASA Altix shared memory system, Columbia.  Later, they were moved to the shiny new SGI Pleiades cluster to take advantage of the increased size and performance.  As many of you know, climate science can be horribly compuationally intensive.  ORNL, GFDL, FSL, NASA [NAS/Goddard], and NCAR [just to name a few] have huge computational resources dedicated to climate reserch.  The original NASA article includes a very cool movie depicting the cubed grid method.  You can read the full article and watch the movie here.

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