Accelerating Atmospheric Research at NCAR with HPE and SUSE

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Extreme weather events and global warming are constantly in the news, dominating the list of long-term global risks to our planet.

Having lived through many harsh winters in the mountains of Pennsylvania and dangerous hurricanes that have hit the Carolinas, I admire the research involved in monitoring climate change, data simulations and predictive analysis. As one shining example at the center of that research, NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research) performs weather modeling to climatology, spanning seconds to centuries. Their research demands high performance, long-term application repeatability and high reliability.

Community is key at all levels, from interoperable software with HPE and SUSE to collaboration with other centers (e.g., NOAA, NASA, DOE). In fact, NOAA’s EPIC (Earth Prediction Innovation Center) relies on Cray supercomputers which are at the heart of its global prediction system. NOAA and NCAR collaborate in producing global weather simulations to predict future climate shifts.

The cohesive platform provided by HPE Cray and SUSE Linux Enterprise enables seamless U.S. and global weather simulations. Today, NCAR’s “Cheyenne” supercomputer enables scientists across the country to study phenomena ranging from weather and climate to wildfires, seismic activity, and airflows that generate power at wind farms. Their findings lay the groundwork for better protecting society from natural disasters, lead to more detailed projections of seasonal and longer-term weather and climate variability and improve weather and water forecasts that are needed by economic sectors from agriculture and energy to transportation and tourism. Later this year, NCAR will make another giant leap forward with a new HPE Cray EX supercomputer with a 19.87 peak petaflops system that will work alongside the “Cheyenne” system.

How much processing power does it take to model the weather for an entire planet? To understand the magnitude of such a task, researchers need to model the planet itself as well as all its terrestrial and related geo-space systems. It’s no small task, but that’s what the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) is doing. High-resolution ensemble models used in weather and climate research place incredibly large demands on HPC systems, relying on tens of petabytes of data. HPC improves those models used to forecast severe storms and other weather events or to simulate 30,000 years of climate change, helping us to better understand and prepare for the impact on our everyday lives. Because climate and weather simulations can be very long-running problems, HPC systems need to exhibit extreme reliability.

To handle that deep scale of research, the NCAR team knew it would need a system that could analyze and perform cross comparisons on approximately 60 petabytes of data coming from all parts of the globe. With the right mix of HPE and SUSE high performance computing software, NCAR can make the best use of their system. With a powerful OS platform, runtime tools, a high performance MPI (Message Passing Interface) environment and optimized software libraries, the NCAR team can streamline software maintenance, schedule and automate tasks, and monitor performance. The new HPE Cray EX supercomputer at NCAR will include Cray System Management and HPE Cray OS (COS), which is based on SUSE Linux Enterprise.

NCAR is also researching weather beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. For example, solar flares affect our planet’s weather and communications. Being able to inject data from solar events and predict when they will occur helps us limit their impacts. The science is where space weather and planetary change meet. The combination of HPE Cray XE and software from HPE and SUSE helps advance that science into the future.

To learn more, check these articles out:

    New NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputer to Accelerate Scientific Discovery, January 27, 2021 from NCAR

    Hewlett Packard Enterprise to Build $35M supercomputer for the National Center for Atmospheric Research to Improve Predictions of Wildfires, Hurricanes and Solar Storms, January 27, 2021 Press Release

    3 Ways Open Source is Helping to Tackle Climate Change, March 2020 SUSE Community Blog

Thanks for reading!

Jeff Reser, SUSE

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Jeff Reser
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