NCAR Selects SGI Supercomputer for Advanced Modeling and Research

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NCAR in Boulder, CO

NCAR in Boulder, CO

Today the National Center for Atmospheric Research announced that it has selected SGI to build one of the world’s most advanced compute systems used to develop models for predicting the impact of climate change and severe weather events on both a global and local scale. As part of a new procurement coming online in 2017, an SGI ICE XA system named “Cheyenne” will perform some of the world’s most data intensive calculations for weather and climate modeling to improve the resolution and precision by orders of magnitude. As a result, NCAR’s scientists will provide more actionable projections about the impact of climate change for specific regions and assist agencies throughout the world develop more accurate weather predictions on a local and global scale.

NCAR requires an increasingly more advanced system. For example, doubling the resolution of a weather system requires a tenfold increase of compute power. This is necessary to help model and pinpoint when and where a storm will hit. To put it simply, we’re aiming to process data of very large proportions,” said Al Kellie, director of CISL at NCAR. “The SGI system offers scientists an intensive computational environment along with data storage capabilities that will allow them to build more detailed research models and better simulate real-world geoscience problems of today and tomorrow.”

Sponsored by the National Science Foundation, NCAR is a research center focused on furthering the understanding of the Earth’s atmosphere and related geospace systems. NCAR scientists will use the SGI system to help forecasters generate more detailed alerts of impending solar-induced geomagnetic storms in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. After implementing the Cheyenne supercomputer, NCAR scientists will better understand how particular regions across the globe will be impacted by rising sea levels and changing patterns of storms, precipitation, and temperature. The new supercomputer will also be used to predict climate patterns over the next ten years or further into the future to assess drought risk or the extent of melting sea ice in the Arctic. In addition, NCAR research will lead to improved predictions of severe atmospheric events, such as hour-by-hour risks associated with thunderstorm outbreaks to the timing of the 11-year solar cycle and its potential impacts on GPS and other sensitive technologies. Cheyenne will be a critical tool for researchers across the country studying seismic activity, air quality, wildfires, and other important geoscience topics.


  • The SGI system will conduct incredibly complex, data intensive calculations to dramatically improve the resolution and precision of predictions for these events, so governments, industry and local communities can be better prepared for the future.
  • Even with its increased power, Cheyenne will be three times more energy efficient (in floating point operations per second, or flops, per watt) than Yellowstone, its predecessor, which is itself highly efficient.

SGI HPC systems have delivered ground-breaking research and modeling for the world’s most challenging computational issues. The SGI ICE XA supercomputer is uniquely suited to support large system needs in weather and climate simulations. The Cheyenne 5.34 petaflop system can process 5.34 quadrillion calculations per second. The entire system:

  • Contains a modular design enabling combinations of processors and accelerators
  • Includes more than 7000 future generation Intel Xeon processors in high density packaging with SGI E-cell warm water cooled technology for lower power consumption and lower total cost
  • Features a high-performance enhanced hypercube interconnect based on Mellanox EDR InfiniBand and 20 Petabytes of High Performance Storage from Data Direct Networks (DDN)
  • Incorporates SGI HPC Software including SGI Performance Suite to deliver parallel application performance and SGI Management Suite to enable auto-configurability, power management, health management, and remote system management
  • Is capable of more than 2.5 times the amount of scientific computing performed by Yellowstone, the current NCAR supercomputer
  • Will be operational in early 2017

NCAR’s new supercomputer, Cheyenne, will be an important tool for researchers across the country to understand climate change, severe weather, air quality and other important atmospheric and geoscience topics,” said Jorge Titinger, president and CEO, SGI. “NCAR is constantly pushing the boundaries of research to provide deeper insights. SGI is proud to team with NCAR to help scientists continue to understand our atmosphere and ensure we are prepared for the changing conditions of our planet.”

Download the insideHPC Guide to Guide to Weather Forecasting and Climate Research