Supercomputing Global Ocean Temperatures with ACME

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surface-temperaturesOver at Live Science, Shannon Hall writes that new global map of the world’s oceans is so visually stunning that it could be mistaken for art. Computed on LANL supercomputers, the simulation is a component of the DOE’s Accelerated Climate Model for Energy (ACME), which is expected to be the most complete climate and Earth system model once it is finished.

The simulation is dubbed the Model for Prediction Across Scales Ocean (MPAS-O). It’s a variable-resolution model, which means researchers can easily sharpen the simulation’s resolution on regional scales (where they have more data). In fact, the map has a resolution of 9 miles (15 kilometers) in the North Atlantic and 47 miles (75 km) elsewhere. MPAS-O uses data from the National Oceanographic Data Center’s World Ocean Circulation Experiment — the most comprehensive data set ever collected from the global ocean. For years, researchers sailed the world’s oceans and dropped instruments overboard every 35 miles (56 km). The instruments measured water temperature and salinity at regular intervals from the surface to the seafloor. The simulation will help researchers understand ocean temperatures, which add to the climate’s complexities by acting like giant sponges for additional heat. The model’s ability to simulate eddies — small pockets of moving water that break away from the main current and help transport heat through the oceans — as broad paint-brush strokes is already promising. Such fine details will help researchers accurately model the effects of climate change.

Fifteen months ago, academic climate scientists expressed worries that the new ACME climate model would dilute resources from the Community Earth System Model (CESM). That model, managed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, is built on science and code continually developed by U.S. academics and DOE scientists and is partially funded by DOE. Besides, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the federal space and ocean agencies, respectively, each have two other models; could creating a sixth U.S. climate model work?

Well, so far, so good. Six months in,  writes that the project is getting cautious praise.

DOE scientists have built ACME using CESM’s code, and the two projects are now engaged in a tandem effort that’s new and potentially good for both. Although the CESM team is still a bit uneasy, climate modeler Jean-François Lamarque of NCAR writes in an e-mail that “the potential benefits to the expansion of scope and modeling approaches offered by the two projects need to be recognized.” The “new collaborations” that the tandem effort has catalyzed have been “fruitful,” he added.

 notes that ACME is expected to run on DOE supercomputers, which will likely differ from those at the Wyoming Supercomputing Center, the main supercomputing tool for NCAR and CESM.

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